Despite its cynical name, the Cribs' retrospective Payola doesn't feel like a blatant cash grab: at a generous 22 songs long, it gathers the band's hits, as well as fan favorites, from the albums they recorded between 2002 and 2012. Putting them all together like this emphasizes how consistent their music has been over the years, and how well the way the Jarman brothers borrow and blend British and American indie elements has aged. Also to the band's credit: Payola's tracks are sequenced in a way that emphasizes their flow rather than in chronological order, so it feels more like a concert set list than a rote roundup of career highlights. Aside from a few minor fluctuations in production values -- which are most evident on rough-and-ready songs from their self-titled debut like "Direction" and the more polished approach they took on Johnny Marr-assisted tracks like Ignore the Ignorant's "We Were Aborted" -- Payola often sounds like one big album of charming, punchy indie rock. Several tracks come from Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever, which still features many of the Cribs' brightest moments even if it's not their most consistent album (that honor probably goes to In the Belly of the Brazen Bull): "Men's Needs," "Our Bovine Public," and "Be Safe" still crackle with an energy that makes them among the very finest of the band's definitive songs. Other highlights include the pure pop bliss of "Anna" and the driving "Mirror Kissers." Payola's name might be justified by the fact that it includes "Leather Jacket Love Song," the band's final, previously unreleased collaboration with Marr, which die-hard fans will probably want even if they know the rest of these songs by heart. Still, the rest of the comp is so appealing that it hardly matters.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares