The Crookes, Lucky Ones
I went into Lucky Ones, the fourth album from The Crookes, with some trepidation. See, everything I’d heard or read about the Sheffield band focused on how singer George Waite’s voice seriously sounded just like Morrissey’s…and, to the unending horror of my wonderful, Morrissey-loving wife, I’ve never been a fan. He’s just never worked for me. Barring a handful of Smiths tracks; I find his voice to be damn near like nails on a chalkboard, and I run away fast whenever he comes on.
This is all to preface why I’m happy to say that — and this is good for me, at least, if not you — listening now to The Crookes, those previous glimpses and hints of the band didn’t come anywhere close to the reality. I mean, sure, there’s a shadow of The Smiths lurking in there, but it’s hardly the full story, or even a big part of it, really. Rather, I’m reminded of a whole slew of other Britpop/Brit-rock heroes to come before, folks like The Housemartins or The Verve or The Jesus and Mary Chain or a good half-dozen New Romantic groups from the ’80s. And that’s an excellent, excellent thing.
The best thing about Lucky Ones is the overall feel of the thing, which is just this unashamed, wide-smiling cheerfulness (and yes, this is where the Morrissey comparisons fall flat) that engulfs every track. I’m reminded of The 1975 in several places, actually, because both bands have a just-having-a-laugh vibe to ’em that often belies the actual lyrics being sung.
Take single “I Wanna Waste My Time With You,” for example — driven by a high-pitched, utterly clean bassline, it’s seriously reminiscent of ’80s pop like New Order, but at the same time, that sound is grafted seamlessly to a ’90s Brit-rock sound that’s as massive as that of the Gallagher Bros. in their prime. The result is melodic and poppy and sweet, yet ear-filling and loud, with moments that bring to mind Supergrass and a completely infectious rhythm that dares you to try not to move.
A lot of the rest of Lucky Ones follows suit, especially the title track and the bounce of “Six Week Holiday,” while “Real Life” dances its way in over Waite’s nihilistic words, as he declares smilingly, “I’m giving up / I’m done with real life.” “If Only For Tonight” is languid and swinging, and “Roman Candle” jangles and shimmies wonderfully, but I’ve got to confess I’m most drawn-in by the album’s odd-man-out track, “The World Is Waiting” — it’s Springsteenian in its shaky, trembling, road-weary roar, with a surprising hint of The Cars in its delivery and (hang on) a little bit of Elvis in there, too.
Sometimes I get very tired of this job. There’s so damn much music out there, y’know? It’s hard to even keep track, much less keep up with all of it, and the temptation to say “screw it” and throw in the towel pulls harder with every year. Then, though, something comes along out of left field and makes me remember why I started doing this in the first place. No guarantees about tomorrow, but for today, that something is The Crookes.