H&H // ALBUM: SOAPBOX – THE CROOKES
Originally published on Hooting & Howling
After the storming success of 2012’s ‘Hold Fast’, the news that The Crookes had locked themselves away in a remote church in the Italian mountains to produce their third offering made it very much evident that ‘Soapbox’ was always set to be something a bit special and a bit different to its predecessors, and on revealing it to the world, it certainly is, but a Crookes album nonetheless, and yet again one of blinding genius too.
First single ‘Play Dumb’ was enough to establish this fact back in February and, with indignant snarls and infectious riffs, it hasn’t lost any of it’s gleam when kickstarting the album.
Following are upcoming single ‘Don’t Put Your Faith In Me’ and ‘Echolalia’; the carefully crafted pair that ease into The Crookes’ fine – and by this point, signature – definition of New Pop and seemingly reminiscent of previous efforts on ‘Chasing After Ghosts’, with frontman George Waite’s utterings of Daniel Hopewell’s lyrics effortlessly disguised by the intertwining guitarwork of Hopewell and Dakin and irresistible bass funk, transforming both into bites of uplifting resilience.
The theme of romanticism the outfit excel at twisting into defiant bursts of energy is showcased none more so than by the storming pace of ‘Before The Night Falls’; a track directed by Waite’s defiantly carefree lyrical cries – “we’ll be what we wanna be” and a constant musical power that defines the sheer brilliance in the capability of The Crookes, and a brilliance that you can’t help but adore. Equally, ‘Outsiders’ – quite blindingly the most obvious of tracks channelling Hopewell’s claimed theme of “the idea of The Outsider. As a band that seems to suit us…never invited inside, but never wanting to be. I can empathise more with the madman standing on his soapbox, slowly gaining an audience by speaking with passion and honesty” – also slides seamlessly into this category, building up into a playfully upbeat chorus just waiting to be launched into live.
‘Holy Innocents’, meanwhile, earmarks itself as a showcase of the impressively endearing sweeter side of the band. With its forlorn sighs and stark piano as Waite’s gentle croons wish for simpler times, in all under 2 minutes it’s evident that The Crookes can still do piercing love songs just as well as slices of jangling guitar pop, and effortlessly so.
This is only confirmed by ‘When You’re Fragile’, with a catchy singalong surface – a skill the quartet seemed to have mastered on this LP – whilst depth is reached through its lyrics – “if it don’t hurt, it ain’t worthwhile / I love you most when you’re fragile” – hailing the lost conventions of romance in a bittersweet midst of shimmering guitars.
‘Marcy’ briefly interjects the romanticism for yet another standout moment, with the upbeat energy of past prowess (see ‘Bear’s Blood’, ‘Afterglow’, etc.) making it a Crookes song by definition and bar the slightly more simplistic matter of chasing after a girl “Marcy, my dear/ you’ve got me strung out now”, the band make it as unforgettable as any of the great efforts prior, and undeniably a track that could happily be placed on repeat for a long, long time without ruin.
‘Howl’ provides one last sentimental piece of reflection, led by a lone guitar melody that twists into an epic by-the-book wall of noise overlayed by mournful cries of Waite, fading down into title track ‘Soapbox’ that provides one final injection of guitar fuelled charisma of infectious riffs and powerhouse drums and brings the album to a fittingly brilliant close.
‘Soapbox’ shows The Crookes as complete modern masters of alternative pop sounds and, by only building on their abilities to ingeniously encase poignant, heartfelt lyrics within every compelling riff, the band once again prove their ranking as nothing less than utterly brilliant.
‘Soapbox’ is released on 14th April and The Crookes tour the UK and Europe throughout April and May.