RECORDINGS : Quick Spins

Sunday, July 22, 2007


The Cribs

Three is the magic number, the "Schoolhouse Rock" cartoon taught, and so it is for the U.K. buzz band the Cribs. The West Yorkshire-based trio of brothers -- Gary, Ryan and Ross Jarman -- knock out three-minute, three-chord racket on their third album, "Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever." But, oh, what a beautiful racket.

The Cribs' major operational method is bottom-string guitar riffs and a whole lot of shouted hooks -- resulting in a caffeinated cacophony suitable for pogo stick marathons. The album is overseen by Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos, tying up sparking wires into a pretty knot. The precision is refreshing, allowing Ryan Jarman's rusted Telecaster runs and Ross Jarman's icy high hat to be heard over the din of "sloppy is better" bands. Put the headphones on for "Moving Pictures" to catch the not-so-subtle change in mood and tempo.

A favorite topic for the band is hung-over Sunday morning quarterbacking, and on the title cuts, the Cribs assign "Women's Needs" a bit more attention with a chaotic closer than the more straight-ahead, Jam-influenced "Men's Needs." The Cribs make a strong argument for family members (twins, in the case of Gary and Ryan Jarman) communicating on a higher, subconscious level. Stack this album in the Tousled U.K. Lads With Guitars playlist near Maxïmo Park, Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs and Klaxons, and within a week it'll rise to the top.

The Cribs will perform at the Black Cat on Aug. 11.

-- Todd Inoue

DOWNLOAD THESE:"Men's Needs," "My Life Flashed Before My Eyes"


A Fine Frenzy

A Fine Frenzy is the stage name of Alison Sudol, a 22-year-old singer and classically inclined piano player from Los Angeles. Taken from a line in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," it certainly is an evocative banner to perform under, even if, apart from a handful of songs about tumultuous relationships, there's nothing frenzied about her alternately whimsical and mooning debut.

Dreamlike, yes, and enchantingly so. Swathed in strings and an accordion, Sudol consistently sets her bookish woolgathering in ethereal and transporting relief. Amid the chiming keyboards and programmed pulse of "Last of Days," she muses, "The sun is in the east, rising for the beasts and the beauties / If only I could tear it down, plant it in the ground to warm your face." In "Almost Lover," over diaphanous piano and strings, she pines, "Goodbye, my almost lover / Goodbye, my hopeless dream / I'm trying not to think about you / Can't you just let me be?"

A subtle and commanding singer, Sudol has a voice that can be gauzy or piercing, depending on the scene or mood she inhabits. Her fondness for fairy tales and fantasy can verge on preciousness: "Not your everyday circumstance / The hummingbird taking coffee with the ants," she mulls, after the fashion of Lewis Carroll's "Alice" stories, in "The Minnow and the Trout." Fortunately, Sudol's sense of wonder at the connectedness of all life tends to mitigate quaintness, lending ballast to what is otherwise a sublime debut.

A Fine Frenzy will perform Sept. 28 at the 9:30 club.

-- Bill Friskics-Warren

DOWNLOAD THESE: "Almost Lover," "Lifesize"

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