An image of some minimalist, back-dated recording equipment is indicative of a style that harks back to the “good old days” when harmonicas were cool and the best musicians were penniless. Put this into a lounge, turn the volume up to a considerate level and there you have it.
The problem with Cry It All Out, is that the adventurous nature of the song writing just doesn’t work that well. That, and the fact that 16 tracks is just too long for a fledging band such as this. By the time the (very enjoyable) title track is reached, you get the feeling that the grainy, down-and-out feel of these numbers is beginning to repeat itself. Big Strides do try to keep it interesting, mixing ballad-type tracks such as Pretty In C with funkadelic moments like So Long, the unfortunate downside of this is that the album never quite works out what it is.
Opener �2.49 revolves around a guitar riff that is supposedly aiming for a minimalist effect, but the plodding melancholy of this sound sadly lacks any of the drive that may harness the listener. Vocalist Marcus O’Neill, attempting an Arctic Monkeys-esque drawl, spits forth lines such as “I’ve got �2.49 and a broken heart”, which just do not sound genuine who lives in London and has a contract with EMI.
Following track She Drinks Whisky follows a similarly bluesy layout, and is almost too downbeat to be true. Unfortunately, vocal hooks of “She drinks whisky, she sings songs” just don’t prove catchy enough to help the song along, leaving the 2 and a half minute duration seem almost arduous.
Things pick up with Let’s Get Nice, a fired-up track featuring some tasty double bass work. Energetic drumming installs a groove that in no small way resembles early day Red Hot Chili Peppers. What spoils this interesting piece is O’Neill’s socially aware rapping, coupled with samples of young girls shouting “yeah!”. What a shame.
The real confusion of the album then comes to the fore, as the mood behind each song seems to constantly alternate. Things get quite angry with Breakfast, where O’Neill tells of how he chucks his radio “Out the fucking window”. Perhaps not one for release, here, which is a shame because the guitar work is grungy enough to make you forget you’re actually listening to white boy blues.
We then get political with Cookies (Donald’s Theme), which is essentially centred on O’Neill’s lyrical assault on Donald Rumsfeld. Now I cannot stand Donald Rumsfeld. He is a man I hold as fiendish, two-faced and terrifying. I have not, however, learned anything more about him based on lines like “His name was Rumsfeld, and it sounded heartfelt, he says smile while you’re killing, kill while you smile”. Such mundane lyrics, coming from a wholly mediocre voice, not only fails to put the point across, but almost makes me like Donald a little bit more.
The album closes with the ambient Sour Cream, followed by the more upbeat Sad Songs. Double Bass and Guitar combine well here to provide what is probably the album’s highlight; seemingly it is the musicianship of Big Strides that reveals the extend of the band’s song-writing ability. The vocals, when they come in, detract from the song’s enjoyable edge, but thankfully these are kept to a minimum here.
If they had thought of songs like this before the album’s final track, perhaps the LP would not be so in need of a pick-me-up. As a whole, Cry It All Out lacks punch, insight and direction, which doesn’t leave a lot else to enjoy, really.