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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
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No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
The Cribs
Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever
Warner Bros.

Rating: 7.9/10 ?

August 8, 2007
If the brothers Jarman wanted to be held in high regard, they got what they wanted. Positioning themselves to be everything to everyone with Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever, they pleased Warner Brothers by lining up Andy Wallace (Nirvana, At the Drive-In) and his radio-ready mixing, winked at hipsters by bringing in Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand to produce, and baited critics with a guest spot from Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo, who narrates one of his trippy monologues over the six-minutes of "Be Safe." One of whiff of that and I bit. A longtime lover of Sonic Youth, nervous guitar work and is-it-or-isn't-it dancepunk, I was perfectly ready to overlook the Cribs' forgettable debut, which sounded like a beery karaoke night for the Libertines, and take on Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever with fresh ears.

Starting with the bratty "Our Bovine Public," with its sneering worldview summed up by its title, the "whatever" component of the album's title is readily apparent. The band has a hell of an anthem in "Men's Needs," a bitter sulkfest laden with rapidly typed guitar squeaks and vocals traded beautifully between the band's dual singers, Ryan and Gary. I'm not completely sure which is which, but one of the two does a smooth Alex Kapranos impression to please the mentor on the verses while the other strains himself wildly on the screeching chorus, one of the most cynical in recent memory; "The man's needs are full of greed," is their dirty little fiction disguised as brutal sincerity. It would be a disservice to label the Cribs as dishonest because of their obvious commercial aspirations, but they don't care to know a better side of things - they're game so long as they can squeeze such beauty out of the wrenching. "I'm an indecisive piece of shit," is a choice quote from "I'm A Realist," along with "I'm a romantic." What is the listener to make of these probable exaggerations when bopping along to, say, CSS's lovely "Men's Needs" remix? Absolutely nothing - just ignore it and dance; the only thing making Franz Ferdinand's easier to swallow is their faith (in the "bovine public," and relationships).

For the Cribs, however, honesty and faith belong in the music, which on Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever is grounded by Kapranos' loving production. The guitars whine in a uniform pitch with the vocals on most of the album's tracks, stilted by brother Ross' foundation of cavernous drumming, bashing out dancebeats or arena stomp or whatever else is needed to give the tunes the pump missed on The New Fellas. The trebly pitch succeeds best on the racing "Girls Like Mystery" (which sounds vaguely like James Mercer of the Shins fronting Sleater-Kinney) and the gorgeous twitch of "Moving Pictures."

Albums this cynical are rarely able to sustain much energy, but Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever is a positive rush for the whole first half and going. When they do slow down, the Cribs are still preferable to the relatively positive Arctic Monkeys, a band with a sound far too massive to squeeze any juice out of the simplifications these androids know as hooks. The happily helpless "Women's Needs" and information-overload ballad "Be Safe" - a track as melodic as anything on Rather Ripped - make good use of the affordable space after the brevity of the feral first half. From start to finish the album is well balanced and well fueled, and while it isn't quite the total package it is certainly a step in the right direction. Even if they can't afford all the big names next time out, I hope the Cribs maintain the level of quality found on Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever.

Reviewed by Dan Weiss
Dan Weiss is the music editor for LAS. Formerly an editorial intern at CMJ and creator of the now defunct What was It Anyway?, his work has appeared in Village Voice, Pitchfork, Philadelphia Inquirer, Stylus and Crawdaddy among others. He resides in Brooklyn where he enjoys questionable lifestyle choices and loud guitars.

See other reviews by Dan Weiss



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