Night Network, the eighth album from Yorkshire alt-rockers The Cribs, looked at one point as if it might not be made at all. After the release of 2017’s 24/7 Rock Star S**t, the band left their long-time management only to learn that the rights to their back catalogue had been bought by other parties without them knowing. The legal battles that followed set their career back by 18 months and came very close to ending it altogether, before Dave Grohl (whom The Cribs had supported in 2018) heard about their struggles and invited them to record at his Studio 606. And all this before a global pandemic that kept the group off the live circuit and ended up pushing the album’s release back…
But for all that Night Network comes after a difficult time for The Cribs, they sound just as energised here as they did in their ‘Men’s Needs’ heyday ‒ perhaps even more. This is especially surprising given it’s their first album to have been produced entirely by the band themselves – the record’s full, rich mix proves the Jarman brothers need no extra assistance to make their sound shine. If 24/7 Rock Star S**t was The Cribs heading back to their unpolished, lo-fi roots with mixed results, then Night Network is them embracing their poppier side that brought them their army of dedicated fans and sounding all the healthier for it.
Both lyrically and musically, The Cribs appear fully comfortable in their skin on Night Network. Frontman Ryan Jarman seems to have long moved past the days of taking shots at the band’s critics and musical rivals; although his lyrics are as self-aware as they’ve always been, they’re more focused on Jarman’s love life here than anything else. Lead single ‘Running Into You’ sees him reminiscing about an old flame, musing “If I could only write her favourite song / Still be in her head when I am gone”, while ‘The Weather Speaks Your Name’ is a candid description of a long-distance relationship, with Jarman admitting “I hear echoes wail around the English coast / But in the bleakness you see the romance most”. The band may have declared in 2013 that they “didn’t wanna write another leather jacket love song”, but if Night Network is any indicator, that’s exactly what they do best.
Instrumentally, the brothers are on top form, sounding fat enough that you often forget they’re only a three-piece. They’d clearly been listening to a lot of 1960s records before writing Night Network, as you can hear the influences clearly throughout; opener ‘Goodbye’ adopts the Phil Spector ‘wall of sound’ to great effect, while ‘Siren Sing-Along’ has more than a hint of Dusty Springfield’s ‘I Only Want to Be With You’ to its chorus. Elsewhere, the howling lead guitar on ‘Running Into You’ complements Ryan Jarman’s falsetto perfectly, and ‘Earl and Duke’ proves that for all the album’s maximalist leanings, the group know how to dial back the intensity without losing any of their charm.
Now almost 20 years into their career and with the worst of it hopefully behind them, The Cribs are showing no signs of slowing down. Night Network is the sound of a passionate group back on their feet after a long period of uncertainty and ready to shut their detractors up as ever. And yes, it’s about as far removed from ‘landfill indie’ as you can possibly get.
Words by Nat Schaefer
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