Tragedy Rocks? With a title like that you just know this debut from Owen Hopkins and Davey Macmanus’ The Crimea (hailing from Plaistow not the Ukraine) isn’t going to be overflowing with earnest lyrical wrist-wringing of the Chris Martin variety. Made up of various ex-members of formerly up-and-coming indie types The Crocketts, The Crimea have a mischievous streak of humour running through their music.
With song-titles like Lottery Winners On Acid, it’s tempting to just label them the Bart to the Lisa of Coldplay and their ilk, but The Crimea make a play to appeal to both those who enjoy perky, poppy rock music with a head on its shoulders and those more inclined towards literate melancholia. It’s a case of wanting to have their cake and eat (or eat their cake and have it, if you will) and, you know what, for the most part they just about manage it.
Exuding more than the whiff of The Flaming Lips, the album kicks of with White Russian Galaxy, an instantly likeable single-to-be with a simple piano intro and much inventive use of banjos. Yes it veers a little too close to Space territory at times but it has a killer chorus (“Who knows what goes on in that pretty little head of yours?”)
The aforementioned Lottery Winners On Acid is cooler and catchier than a song with a novelty title has any right to be, bouncy and hummable and very endearing. But with the next track things get abruptly darker. Opposite Ends sees Macmanus switching to a raw, semi-spoken vocal style. It’s something of a dramatic change in tone but a not unwelcome one.
In fact the album is full of moments like that, moments you feel shouldn’t really work but, through some magic alchemy, come together. The offbeat lyrics and general quirkiness rarely gets in the way of the music, as it sometimes can with less talented bands; sincerity isn’t a dirty word. There’s a hell of a lot going on here; these guys have been honing their songs for some time and it shows.
Though it can’t quite match the appeal of those early songs, the album throws up a few more pleasures. Gazillions Of Violins brings out a real lighters (or should that be mobile phones) in the air finale: “life goes on; don’t fight it”, and the bleakly epic Someone’s Crying kicks off in faux Nick Cave mode (“Someone’s on their last legs, Lord, someone’s on their way out”) before lifting into a seriously Flaming Lippy soaring, sonic fade out.
Boasting just ten songs and coming in at under forty minutes, Tragedy Rocks does not overstay its welcome. And yet The Crimea manage to prove themselves as capable of musical brooding as they are adept with a catchy melody. Theirs may be a chuck it all in and see what sticks approach but, for the most part, they pull it off.