Black and white photo of four members of band Crows
Credit: Jono White

Crows – Beware Believers (Bad Vibrations Records)

London four-piece Crows release their second album Beware Believers on 1 April via Bad Vibrations Records.  It follows their critically acclaimed debut Silver Tongues released in 2019.  Crows’ second album has had a drawn out gestation period due to the tumultuous impact of the global pandemic.   The band were on a creative crest of a wave when the world shut down.  Having toured supporting IDLES after Silver Tongues was released, they immediately began on album No. 2.  By the beginning of 2020 they were back in the studio, their gigs were seeing bigger crowds, they had their first US dates booked including SXSW and then everything came to a shuddering halt.  The enforced stop on this momentum was initially difficult to come to terms with, especially with the curtailment of live shows which is oxygen to this band.  However acceptance came with the realisation that lockdown was the new reality albeit temporarily.  As lead singer James Cox explains: “Once we knew Covid was here to stay, we took the first break we’ve taken since we released our first single ‘Pray’ in 2015.  Being locked down for three months unable to finish the last bits of the record was very frustrating but it did mean we could come back to the album with fresh ears and make sure it sounded like it should: a true representation of Crows.”

Listening to Beware Believers I think they have succeeded.

Opening with ‘Closer Still’ we are thrown straight into the visceral soundscape of Crows. Bold and confident their music somehow exists in an expansive soundscape, and that spark of electricity at the end sounds both energetic and purposeful.

The pace is then immediately ramped up for short, sharp current single ‘Garden of England’.  This is thrashed out at just over 2 minutes, and it is scuzzy rock and roll.  Lyrically it speaks of the modern world of social media, celebrity and fake news.

“Don’t have to hide anymore, I can say what I please and be famous
I’ll continue to lie and continue to spread it as wisdom
I’ll find myself repeat, I’ll find myself repeating, I’ll attack and play the victim
I’ll find myself repeat, I’ll find myself repeating, I’ll deflect and play the victim”

Cox has said that when the band were writing the album it was amongst growing socio-political unrest and he found both solace and creative inspiration in dystopian novels:
“The majority of the themes on the album came from what was going on in the world around in summer 2019, Covid wasn’t in our lives and the biggest impact was Brexit and the madness our government were putting us through. I was reading a lot of J.G. Ballard and Kurt Vonnegut whilst all this craziness was going on around us and it was a weird headspace to get into.” 

‘Only Time’ is a thunderous, impassioned self-exploration.  Cox sings with a power and clarity that enables us to hear the lyrics but combined here with the drumming of Sam Lister, this track will be a highlight live.
“‘I’ve held my breath for so long now
That I held my tongue for longer than
I should have done”

First single released from the album ‘Slowly Separate‘ is followed by ‘Moderation‘.  Slightly slower in pace the guitar of  Steve Goddard and bass of Jith Amarasinghe take more of a lead here.  And what a glorious soaring sound they create, including hanging on to that final note at the very end, making it last for as long as possible.

Healing‘ is both personal and guttural, oozing brutal honesty but delivered at a metronomic pace which adds a lightness.  This creates a sense of empathy and hope with this expression of understanding.
“I know everything hurts,
I know everything can heal”

Cox admits that his songwriting can be inspired by the unsettling and sinister, drawing on his eclectic taste in reading subject matter.  Indeed ‘Room 156’ took inspiration from the American serial killer H.H. Holmes who would murder the unfortunate patrons of his World’s Fair Hotel, combined with transcripts of sermons from a 1900s faith healer called Reverend Major Jealous Divine.

‘Meanwhile’ begins in perhaps an usual manner for Crows, a more gentle rhythm but do not be fooled.  The passion kicks in and there is a subtle shift, until two thirds in the foot hits the floor, the guitars and drums accelerate and Cox’s vocals are pushed into the background with a ferocious sonic push to the tracks echoey end.

If Crows have a song with a nod to the dancefloor rather than the mosh-pit on this album then its ‘Wild Eyed and Loathsome’.  With its stomping vibe and clanking industrial soundscape this track live will become a crowd favourite.  Its followed by ‘The Servant’ which returns us to a ferocious pace.  Cathartic and wild it sees Cox vocalise his frustrations.  The shifting key change in the final chorus implies an increasing desparation.

“I’m trying not to lose you
But you’ve already given up
And I’m tired of trying to save you
Cos all it does is hurt us both”

“I left God out in the rain
I left God out in the rain
I left God out in the rain”

The final track is ‘Sad Lad’, a longer brooding song which perfectly closes out this album, indeed make sure you listen to the very end and you sense how much it means to Crows to have finally produced this album.  There is an emotional final drum beat after a raucous verbal exchange, is that the band celebrating?   They deserve to as Crows may produce a darker version of post-punk than the majority of their contemporaries but the variety throughout Believers Beware demonstrates their versatility.  This is not 11 tracks simply repeated but the shifts in pace, atmosphere and subject matter exist.  Truly worth the wait.

Crows begin a UK tour in support of Believers Beware in April.
For full details please check out their website here

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