Ah, the debut album. Years of dreaming, yearning and hard graft, poured into a singular collection that becomes your calling card to the world. It’s no wonder that so many musician’s sophomore efforts fall short, because after the adrenalised buzz of realising your burgeoning musical ambitions, one of two things generally happens:-
A) The realisation sets in that your creation, the baby you’ve held aloft for all to see like in the opening scene of The fucking Lion King, isn’t appreciated by the music buying/listening public at large. Oh, and that spike in first day vinyl sales was in-fact down to your nan buying ten copies. Bummer man! What do you do now?
B) You’re a success! Sadly though, constant touring, record company interference and a nicely developing drug habit mean that by the time it comes to write and record subsequent albums, all of your creative passion is spent. Rehab and bankruptcy beckon…
For London Trio Crushed Beaks, it’s fair to say that that the fate afforded to their wonderfully spiky 2015 debut, Scatter, was of the letter A variety, and that’s a damn shame. So what of its follow up, The Other Room? Well, it wasn’t conceived under the cosh of record executive haranguing, or from a room in a rehab facility, so have the four years since their debut been spent creating something wonderful, or would Crushed Beaks have been better served backpacking through Eastern Europe/taking cookery classes/learning Mandarin, you know, something, anything apart from music?
For the first few discordant seconds of album opener (and current single) ‘Sky Burial’, it’s unclear what direction Crushed Beaks are going to head off in. Perhaps they’ve decided just to record an albums worth of atonal feedback as a two fingered salute to the fools who didn’t buy their debut, but then, wallop! Like a racehorse who’s been slapped firmly on the buttocks by a mean spirited jockey, the song leaps out of the gate, threatening to trample on any fucker who’s daft enough to get in the way. Sky scraping guitars and clattering drums evoke the blissed out euphoria of 80s/90s Manchester nearly-legends The High, and the whole enterprise is absolutely guaranteed to leave a massive shit-eating grin on your face. ‘Sky Burial’ is as close as you can get to that feeling of being woozily, gloriously arseholed, but without having touched a drop.
I suspect that if you put a big fuck-off firework in a jelly filled with drawing pins and gravel and let that bad boy rip, it would sound exactly like the next track, ‘Strange Things’. Wibbleing and pulsing with driven intent, ‘Strange Things’ is an off-kilter stadium sized anthem that captures that the feeling of being young and invincible. If the chorus doesn’t make you want to throw an imaginary pint of overpriced lager in the air as it all kicks off in the mosh pit of your mind, then I’m sorry to tell you, you’re probably dead.
Similarly huge is the recent album taster, ‘Honesty Box’. Bounding along with the same Duracell bunny momentum that made Fontaines D.C.’s ‘Boys In The Better Land’ such a marvel, ‘Honesty Box’ is probably the best song on The Other Room. When lead sing Matt Poile sings “I got ahead of myself/Its only a dream I had”, it’s heartbreaking to hear the self doubt that seems to be at the core of there song. It’s also ironically hilarious, because if there’s one track that Crushed Beaks have in their repertoire that’s going to fire them into the fucking stratosphere, it’s this one.
Starting life with lazy, languid drums and guitars that buzz around your brain like a half forgotten memory you’re desperately trying to recall, Silver Tongue amply demonstrates that Crushed Beaks can also do aching, laid back melancholy as well as big burly indie-rock, and shows just how far they’ve come since their debut LP. The band also give a object lesson in how to navigate the treacherous terrain of honouring musical influences without sounding like thieving arse rags. The Echo and the Bunnymen tinged Right Machine and The Stooges by way of Blur flavoured Jupiter, both wear their influences like badges of respect, but never at the expense of sounding like derivative, overly reverent guff. That my friends, is true talent.
As the final hum of album closer ‘Elsewhere’ fades away, it’s clear that Crushed Beaks have come up with the goods on LP number two, and produced something a little bit special. With nary a duff track on the record (only ‘Bonfire Night’ comes close to being forgettable, lumpen padding), it seems inconceivable that The Other Room won’t be winning over new hearts and minds across the nation. Not only have Crushed Beaks avoided the sophomore slump that plagues so many talents, they’ve left it bloodied, defeated and crying for its mother. Now just the small matter of avoiding the ongoing pitfalls of success…
The Other Room is released on 09/08/19 on Clue Records