Single Review: The Crookes – Bear’s Blood

By on Tuesday, 16th April 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Crookes logo smThe Crookes are already hard at work on album #3, which looks like will be following in the footsteps of 2011’s ‘Chasing After Ghosts’ and 2012’s ‘Hold Fast’, so I’m expecting this third album to appear in quick succession. Just getting its first airplay last night on Steve Lamacq’s drivetime show on 6music, ‘Bear’s Blood’ is the first single from their yet to be named third album. The double A-sided single comes out the 27th of May on Fierce Panda. [Update: the other A-side is ‘Dance in Colour’.]

According to Lammo, this song, along with several other new ones, were recorded this year between their support slot with Richard Hawley in February and whence we caught up with them in Austin for SXSW 2013 in March. From all the interviews I’ve done and bands I’ve asked, writing on the road is a very difficult task, so hearing that the Crookes already have several songs in the can for album #3 is good news for fans indeed. ‘Bear’s Blood’, as the first taste of this new material to be unleashed on the public in short order, then demands further examination. Last year, band lyricist Daniel Hopewell indulged my interest in the words to single ‘Maybe in the Dark’ so I would have all of the words in front of me before I began my research. Expecting to have to grovel at his feet again, it was a pleasant surprise to be able to get all (or nearly all) of the lyrics from the new video released last night. And away we go:


Drip feed hope to a blind, homeless man
Stars explode like aerosol cans
and scar the face of Jalla Jalla*

You felt lust at the edge of your lips
Spread like ichor** to your fingertips
I fell in love with love and squalor^

Oh, it ain’t easy, no, to keep it graceful
To love and be loved seems somehow unfaithful
It feels like I am missing out here?
Baby wants to set me on fire

Old shoes are hung as words are strung from telegraph wires
Bear’s Blood’s down(ed?) in Metelkova^^
You know I’m lost
Oh, it ain’t easy, no, to keep it graceful
To love and be loved seems somehow unfaithful
It feels like I am missing out here?

Oh, you know I’m lost
You know I’m lost…

You know I’m lost
Oh, it ain’t easy, no, to keep it graceful
You know I’m lost…
Oh, it ain’t easy, no, to keep it graceful
To love and be loved seems somehow unfaithful
You know I’m lost…
I crucify the night, a quiet life’s so wasteful

It feels like I am missing out here?
Oh, you know I’m lost
You know I’m lost
You know I’m lost
You know I’m lost

Miscellaneous notes:
* Jalla Jalla: A club in Ljubljana, Slovenia. But I don’t think its purpose is this exclusively. I hope I don’t embarrass Mr. Hopewell next month when I ask him what the deal is with this place…
**ichor: “an ethereal fluid taking the place of blood in the veins of the ancient Greek gods” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary
^ “with love and squalor” – possible reference to J.D. Salinger’s short story For Esme – with Love and Squalor, also the name of We Are Scientists’ debut album released in 2005
^^ “Bear’s Blood down(ed?) in Metelkova” – Metelkova is an alternative, cultural hotbed, and city guides note you can get a shot (or three) of a famous local tipple

Initially, I had it deadset in my mind that ‘Bear’s Blood’ just had to be a reference to the bear pit in Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens that I had mythologised in my head was the setting was ‘Yes, Yes, We’re Magicians’ from 2010’s ‘Dreams of Another Day’ (“Mrs. Porter’s crying, ‘keep that kid away from my bear!’”). But having “METEL KOVA” (or the place of Metalkova) spelled out in black marker on a white shirt helped me out quite a bit.

How I’m reading this on the surface is that it’s chronicling life in this wild and crazy part of a Slovenian town. And if this is the case, the video surely reflects this joy but also mental spirit, with the lyrics of the song being written on band members’ faces, necks, arms and clothes. Being around them recently during the mayhem that is known as SXSW, I watched how the four of them simply love life and how anything related to them ends up truly madcap and fun. It’s not a front. That’s how the Crookes are in real life. They have the incredible ability to bring sunshine into life when there isn’t any.

But I did say that was on the surface. I don’t know how common it is in Britain, let alone far-flung Slovenia, but “Old shoes are hung as words are strung from telegraph wires” often have a criminal connotation when seen in blighted areas in America, quite possibly indicating you’re passing through a less than desirable area; see the intro to the video for Morrissey’s ‘Glamorous Glue’. As happy as this song sounds, it’s about to go dark.

And going further, I can feel someone’s truly tortured. “Oh, it ain’t easy, no, to keep it graceful / you know I’m lost…” seems to suggest that it takes great pains to make things look easy from the outside when your insides are in turmoil. Then there’s the “Bear’s Blood’s down(ed?) in Metelkova”, the drinking of some legendary brew native only to that area. (I’m wondering if the stuff is called ‘Bear’s Blood’ because it makes you think you’re as strong as a bear; scroll to about 1.01 into the video, you’ll see Hopewell with his arms raised as if he’s Rocky Balboa.) I haven’t decided yet if it’s the alcohol causing the person to get ‘lost’ or they were already lost to begin with and is now drowning his/her sorrows in drink. Either way, there’s internal conflict. And I feel this pain.

When I finally transcribed the lyrics myself, the two lines “To love and be loved seems somehow unfaithful / It feels like I am missing out here?” and “I crucify the night, a quiet life’s so wasteful” [the band helpfully set me right on how this line actually reads after I posted this review – Ed.] had me agog at the computer screen, tears ready to roll down my cheeks. How could someone who barely knows me write about my life so well? Obviously it wasn’t written about my life. But I’m sure loads of people can relate too. “What if crucifixion’s on the dole?” is a famous line in ‘Sal Paradise’, but I have to say I’m impressed with the way crucifixion imagery is used again in ‘Bear’s Blood’. I can of course never be sure what he meant, but I know what it means for me. As for “To love and be loved seems somehow unfaithful / It feels like I am missing out here?”, I have my own guess as to what this means to the band themselves, but I’m going to keep it under my hat for now…

I have to admit, I didn’t have an immediate love for this tune upon first listen. The washy guitars seemed to be entirely at odds with everything the Crookes have released up to this point, and the whole affair reminded me too much of what Richard Hawley did on ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’ album last year, turning to a psychedelic sound. I kept muttering “oh no, oh no” to myself as it played all the way through. But it was the video – and reading over the lyrics – that sold me on the song. Clocking in as only a few more seconds longer than ‘Maybe in the Dark’, it’s still an amazing pop song by any measure, though lyrically it packs an incredible punch and is a major step up from that previous single. While it will take some getting used to this new sound of theirs, after considering ‘Bear’s Blood’, I’m still in it for the long haul.

9/10

‘Bear’s Blood’, the new single from the Crookes, will be released on 7″ and digital download on the 27th of May on Fierce Panda. The band will be headlining the Fierce Panda 19th birthday party at London Scala on Tuesday the 21st of May; tickets are on sale now. Support will be provided by their local mates the Heartbreaks and Hey Sholay. I’ll be somewhere in the crowd, if you fancy saying hello. Not sure if I’ll be sporting black marker on my face and arms though…

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6 Responses

12:20 pm
16th April 2013

RT @tgtf: editor Mary takes a magnifying glass to and peels the layers off The Crookes @thecrookes new single ‘Bear’s Blood’: http://t.c

[…] for Music in Notes style, but you are welcome to also read the piece in its original form here. I will say that beyond what I wrote Monday night, the more I thought about the words again tonight, […]

[…] Blood’ that premiered last week. (You can read my review and words on that here.) I had to take a slightly different approach to reviewing this one, now that I had two mediums to […]

[…] I’ve seen the best review of this track ever possible (theregoesthefear), and something which I could never emulate or compete with, because if I broke down the track the […]

[…] time at the famous music festival in Austin; and their newest release of the double-A-sided single ‘Bear’s Blood’ / ‘Dance in […]

[…] Dumb’. It’s the first single from the Sheffield band since the double A-sided ‘Bear’s Blood’ / ‘Dance in Colour’ single that was released in May 2013, the former of which […]

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