The New Fellas [Definitive Edition]

The Cribs

(CD - Sonic Blew #COOP 811CD)

Review by Tim Sendra

The Cribs' self-titled debut album was a bracing blast of post-Brit-pop alternative rock that turned the young trio into the toast of the scene; The New Fellas is both more of the same and a little extra. It has all the noisy, almost manic energy of that record, but with the help of producer Edwyn Collins, they focus some of the excess and deliver an album that slices their contemporaries to tatters, with the angularity of the guitars, the power of the rhythm section, and the biting nature of the lyrics. "Hey Scenesters!," "Martel," and "Mirror Kissers" are an amazingly unsparing trio of takedowns of the scene and the bands in it, played and sung with malevolent, gimlet-eyed glee. All three are also hooky enough to be hits, something that makes them just that much sweeter. Here and on the rest of the album, Collins' no-frills production captures the band in all their energetic glory -- the set comes across like a particularly heated live show minus any spilled beer or unruly shoving. Almost every song is lodged firmly in the red, with the brothers pushing their vocals to the limits while they hit the strings and skins like they were taking out some long overdue revenge. The title track and the spoken word-heavy "The Wrong Way to Be" and the jaunty Strokes-in-Blighty "Things Aren't Gonna Change" are fine examples of how the trio and Collins come up with a thrilling update of melodic punk, scathing indie rock, and good old rock & roll that sounds instantly familiar and impossible not to love. The band isn't a one-trick pony, though. On a handful of tracks they take it a little easier and focus more on melody instead of punch. "We No Longer Can Cheat" sneaks merrily over to the funkier side of the tracks (near where Franz Ferdinand live), "Haunted" forgoes electricity in full as it captures some nice campfire vibes, and "It Was Only Love" rambles along unsteadily like a classic Ronnie Lane song, but dressed in leather instead of scarves. These interludes are a fine balance to the powerful racket the rest of the album unleashes. It's a fine follow-up to their impressive debut, and if it loses a little bit of the wandering weirdness that album provided, it makes up for it in hooks, sweat, and energy. [The 2022 reissue finds the trio back in possession of the master tapes of the album, something that inspired them to trawl their archives in search of every scrap of recording done during The New Fellas era. To that end they add demos of eight of the album's songs. All sound a little rough around the edges, but not far off from the finished product, which gives a clue as to how unvarnished the production is. They also add all the B-sides and extras released at the time, most of which were easily good enough to have been on the album proper. The tough rocker "You're Gonna Lose Us" definitely had what it took, so does the Comet Gain-inspired "Advice from a Roving Artist" -- something they pay back with a ripping cover of "Saturday Night Facts of Life." They also found a couple of previously unissued songs, including one -- the disco-punk "In the Room" -- that the band forgot all about before discovering it at the end of a reel of tape. The reissue is all added value; a rare archival cleanout that uncovers way more good stuff than junk, and ends up being definitely worth seeking out for fans of the Cribs, and this record especially.]

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