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The Crimea - Tragedy Rocks


Review: Jack Foley

THE Crimea have the distinction of being one of John Peel's last great discoveries after their early independent single, Baby Boom, was named in the Top Ten of his final Festive Fifty (2003) ahead of Maps by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes.

They have also drawn favourable comparisons with artists as diverse as Low, Elliott Smith, The Flaming Lips and Leonard Cohen and have found prestigious friends in both Travis and Kings of Leon (both of whom asked them to be their support after they'd heard demos).

The debut album, Tragedy Rocks, certainly demonstrates their diversity, embracing as it does a vast soundscape that is both quirkily endearing and oddly frustrating.

But while some parts of the long-player soar to emotional highs, other parts become too drenched in melancholy that doesn't always sit comfortably alongside the overall tone of the record.

That said, there are more hits than misses, particularly during the opening half that transports you across the emotional rock spectrum.

Opening track, White Russian Galaxy, is a particularly addictive introduction, packed with crisp melodies and guitar riffs as well as the husky-toned vocals of frontman, Davey McManus.

It gloriously showcases the band's penchant for penning debauched, bitter-sweet tales of mean streets, meaner romance, good gin and not-so-good times wrapped in their own inventive style.

There's a carnival feeling attached to the rolling guitar loops of Lottery Winners on Acid, a trippy, happy go-lucky effort that conjures memories of both The Polyphonic Spree and The Flaming Lips.

While the darker, edgier Opposite Ends comes dripping in melancholy and menace, with McManus' vocals emerging as a cross between Robert Smith's and Razorlight's Johnny Borrell's.

Peel's favourite, Baby Boom, is worthy of the late great DJ's admiration and arguably the best track on the album, unfolding with a hypnotic guitar riff and containing plenty of angst-ridden vocals.

It's lazy, intoxicating style is terrific for kicking back to if you're in a reflective mood, especially since its imaginative lyrics manage to reference Captain Caveman, Tarzan and Fred Flinstone.

Further highlights come in the form of Losing My Hair, which opens with a guitar solo Coldplay would be proud of, before hitting you with more of McManus' gruff vocals; while there's an upbeat feel to the urgent Bad Vibrations courtesy of more addictive guitar loops and a catchy chorus.

Thereafter, the album continues to explore different soundscapes but draws to a downbeat close that embraces the melancholia of Elliott Smith and the slow, deliberate vocal style of Leonard Cohen.

Someone's Crying is a particular culprit and closes the album on a depressing note that earlier tracks don't deserve.

It's a shame, for much of what comes before is magnificent in its sonic ambition and lyrical playfulness. Can we have more of the same on the sophomore effort please?

 

Track listing:
1. White Russian Galaxy
2. Lottery Winners On Acid
3. Opposite Ends
4. Baby Boom
5. Girl Just Died
6. Losing My Hair
7. Bad Vibrations
8. Miserabilist Tango
9. Gazillions Of Miniature Violins
10. Someone’s Crying

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