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The Crimea - Square Moon (Review)

The Crimea, Square Moon

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

SO, this is the end of The Crimea. As frontman Davey McManus departs the music scene to set up an orphanage in Diepsloot, Johannesburg, his parting shot is this excellent double album, Square Moon.

An epic listen that includes moments of woozy pop, ragged folk and desolate piano, this is a luxurious send-off for any fan and newcomer alike.

Admittedly, the opening track Petals Open When Reached By Sunlight is a curious starting point in that it takes an age to get going. But it’s swiftly followed by the enchantingly bittersweet Last Plane Out of Saigon (already a fan favourite since being released as a free download in April), which implores the listener to “be my lover” while contemplating the vagaries of loneliness. With its intricate melodic structure, it’s both beautifully composed and achingly poignant, especially once the boy-girl duet kicks in.

Jellyfish maintains the momentum, amid swirling piano arrangements, surreal vocals and a vibrant chorus, while the ‘sha la la’ laden If I See My Reflection One More Time is awash with life-affirming melodies and yet more lyrical intelligence (only occasionally breaking things down to solitary piano arrangements that underline the sense of loss in the lyrics).

In contrast, The Only Living Boy And Girl employs a more solitary backdrop, complete with beating heart, and feels desolate by comparison. But it’s followed by another highlight, the wistful You Never Smile For The Camera, which again thrives on some beauitfully realised piano and guitar hooks, as well as bittersweet lyrics that lament “you were always the brightest kid in school, God knows what they’ve done to you”.

There’s yet more brilliance surrounding How To Make You Laugh, which features wonderful lyrics such as “I am the psychologist to the psychologists” and “I’m not the world’s funniest clown, but I know how to make you laugh”, as well as boy-girl harmonies and a cracking ragged folk chorus. It’ll make you smile at the very least.

The second CD is similarly full of great moments, which reveal themselves more and more with each listen. Opening with the jolly Beehive Mind, it proceeds to charm with the reflective Mid Air Collisions (which makes great use of some harmonica and a slow build approach… the chorus really comes to life) and the folk-rock We Stand Alone, which offers one of the album’s rockier moments.

And yet throughout, the ease with which some of the melodies appeal is offset by the brilliance of the lyrical imagery… Black Belt in Breaking Hearts offering a classic example of how a break-up anthem need not be depressing, Shoelaces lamenting “you can’t play scissors, paper, stone on your own” and Judas Loves You combining religious imagery with nods to Stalingrad and searing lyrics about the nature of betrayal and forgiveness.

Final track Lupara Bianca, meanwhile, offers another tantalising slice of storytelling coupled with the type of instrumentation that, initially, wouldn’t sound out of place in a Tarantino movie, before taking its own distinct detours. But such is the ambition that goes into every track, you can never guess where any particular song is heading next.

We could continue waxing lyrical but, in truth, we’d prefer to give it another spin and catch up on what we missed. This is an album that rewards repeats listens and which entertains in almost everything it does.

As a parting shot from a truly great band, it’s a truly memorable farewell that you won’t want to miss.

Download picks: Last Plane Out of Saigon, Jellyfish, If I See My Reflection One More Time, You Never Smile For The Camera, How To Make You Laugh, Mid Air Collisions, Shoelaces, Black Belt In Breaking Hearts, Judas Loves You, Lupara Bianca

Track listing: Disc 1

  1. Petals open when reached by sunlight
  2. Last Plane Out of Saigon
  3. Jellyfish
  4. Listen to seashells they know everything
  5. If I see my Reflection One More Time
  6. The Only Living Boy and Girl
  7. You Never Smile for the Camera
  8. How to make you laugh
  9. Witches Broom
  10. Shredder
  11. Road to Damascus

Disc 2

  1. Beehive Mind
  2. Mid Air Collisions
  3. We Stand Alone
  4. Lovers of the Disappeared
  5. Shoelaces
  6. Black Belt in Breaking Hearts
  7. Judas Loves You
  8. Millionaire
  9. Goldmine
  10. Mountain of Strange
  11. Lupara Bianca