(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Album Review: The Crookes – Lucky Ones

By on Monday, 25th January 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Crookes Lucky Ones coverIf you’ve been following our previous coverage on them, you’ll already know that we here at TGTF have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Sheffield indie pop quartet the Crookes’ fourth LP ‘Lucky Ones’. As it turns out, the feeling of anxious anticipation is itself a pervasive undercurrent running through the songs, providing an energetic momentum that sweeps through the entirety of the album’s concise 33 minutes.

Though short in duration, ‘Lucky Ones’ is an album of broad musical gestures and sonic experimentation. The Crookes have taken a consciously artistic turn by bookending its eight proper songs with opening prelude ‘Brand New Start’ and corresponding reprise ‘B.N.S. Pt. II’. ‘Brand New Start’ does indeed come as an invigorating breath of fresh air after the brooding introspection of the Crookes previous album ‘Soapbox’, its crisp drum beat and silvery synth arrangement combining with lead vocalist George Waite’s distant, dreamy vocals to set a markedly different tone.

‘Brand New Start’ segues into the album’s relentlessly uptempo current single, ‘The World is Waiting’ (streaming below). The restless promise “I swear I’m gonna get my shit together” in the song’s opening line of might not ring entirely true, but it serves as a shot in the arm, spurring the album into motion. Its breathless frenzy spills over into ‘I Wanna Waste My Time on You’ (reviewed on its own merits here), where the pulsating bass riff and soaring synths illustrate the euphoria of “spinning round the skyline / when everything was new” in a dizzying way that reminded me of Neil Finn’s last solo album.

The ubiquitous influence of American writer Jack Kerouac on Crookes lyricist Daniel Hopewell is tangibly present throughout ‘Lucky Ones’, most notably in the song title ‘Roman Candle’, but also in the album’s underlying themes of wanderlust and escape from the monotony of everyday life. It’s easy to imagine the bright, hazy sheen of the album’s instrumentation as having been inspired by a long trek across the wide open landscape of the American Southwest. (Interestingly enough, I first listened to ‘Lucky Ones’ myself while jogging through a stretch of that same spectacular desert.)

Like any good road trip, the Crookes’ journey takes a few minor detours. The kicky rhythm of ‘If Only For Tonight’ could easily have turned into a Broadway show tune, perfect for a chorus line of dancers, but the prominently layered guitars keep it from veering too far off course. Similarly, the synth keyboard in the intro to ‘Six Week Holiday’ sounds like it might have been commissioned by a game designer at Nintendo until the song is redeemed by its jazz-tinged chorus. The blue notes happen in both the bass line and the vocal melody, where Waite deftly negotiates his lower register in order to pull off the smooth groove.

As always with the Crookes, Waite’s dulcet vocals are the perfect vehicle for Hopewell’s lyrics, finding the delicate balance between Hopewell’s cool ennui and barely-shrouded fragility. There is something vaguely French about the understated sentimentality in Hopewell’s writing, which he has recaptured here after straying from it somewhat in the abrasiveness of ‘Soapbox’. But in the end, as Hopewell himself said in this interview back in October, ‘Lucky Ones’ is essentially a very British record, and its expansive penultimate track ‘No One Like You’ improvises on the adage “there’s no place like home”. Vibrant brass and a glittering harp meld with reverberant guitars in a dynamic and dramatic climax before the album circles back around to ‘B.N.S Pt. II’.

‘Lucky Ones’ is thematically and sonically the Crookes’ most adventurous recording to date. Its bold experimentalism and brazen free spirit were clearly born from the success they achieved with ‘Hold Fast’ and ‘Soapbox’.  But perhaps more importantly, ‘Lucky Ones’ will without a doubt serve as a powerful catalyst for the next part of their journey.

9/10

The Crookes’ fourth LP ‘Lucky Ones’ will be released this Friday, the 29th of January on Anywhere Records and Modern Outsider. The band are set to play a run of UK live dates supporting the album in February before heading to America for SXSW 2016. TGTF’s extensive previous coverage of the Crookes can be found here.

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4 Responses

1:47 pm
12th February 2016

I’ve recently discovered this band and I really can’t believe they’re not as big as I would’ve thought. I wish they’d get the recognition they deserve.

5:10 pm
19th February 2016

They’ve chosen to go in a new direction for this fourth album, so time will tell on that. I’d recommend you check out their back catalogue of albums and EPs to see how they’ve evolved, you’ll be quite surprised, I think.

6:47 pm
6th March 2016

I actually listened first to Chasing the Ghosts and absolutely loved their jangly lo-fi sound reminiscent of my fave 80’s bands (thanks to chancing upon Godless Girl on Spotify). I quickly listened to their other albums. Hold Fast stayed in my playlist for months on end and is probably my fave album they’ve released so far, followed closely by Soapbox which I only play when I’m in a dark mood. I’m also not a super fan of heavily synthesized music, but it does have it’s charm.

5:03 am
11th March 2016

I meant “Chasing After Ghosts”, not “Chasing the Ghosts”. There should be an edit function in this thing.

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