cranes pack shot cd v3

Cranes – Collected Works Volume 1 – 89-97 (Cherry Red)

The Cranes were formed in 1986 by siblings Alison and Jim Shaw, setting themselves apart from the crowd with a sound where dream-pop collides with ethereal rock, shoegaze, and industrial, along with the neo-classical. Alongside this unique sound, it featured the beguiling vocal of Alison, creating a unique style that saw them build a fan base pulled from these alternative bases and beyond. Everything was curated and overseen by Alison, working on behalf of the band, along with artwork by 4AD legend Chris Bigg. Of course, no release of this nature would be complete without liner notes and release information, and sure enough, this has been included, exploring the band’s output for the Dedicated label, and including the band’s debut mini-album from 1989, originally released on the Bite Back label. This is a 6CD set, featuring 5 hours 45 minutes of music, that includes albums, B-sides, remixes, rarities and live recordings, providing an overview of the band in the 8 years since releasing the debut mini album Self-Non-Self. I remember being introduced to this band from within the pages of the NME, shortly before catching them on the short-lived late-night television music zine Transmission, where indie bands vied for audience attention. It was their album Wings Of Joy, that first caught my pennies, an album that, with Alison’s haunting vocal, along with the band’s musical majesty, was compelling.

By the time the band had arrived at the Wings Of Joy album, they had found themselves signed to indie colossus Dedicated, a label that so many indie bands had found themselves embracing. But this set starts from the very beginning with Self-Non-Self , a release on the smaller indie label Bite Back, whose sound was far darker, although with a vocal that was so much in keeping with everything that came after. Opening with a track that from its very title suggests so much and more. ‘One From The Slum’ begins with heavy beats, that when joined by bass guitar, picks up pace until you realise that this is an entirely instrumental number. A number that daubs the walls of this shell with splashes of subdued colour. It’s not until the second number, ‘Joy Lies Within’ that Alison’s childlike vocal style come through, but what is she singing? This really ceases to be a concern, as the listener is drawn into this tale, via its hypnotic musical palate. This album is very film noir in its presentation, dark, moody and distinctly mini, clocking in at just 33 minutes over 10 songs.

The band’s first album proper continues this set, as Wings Of Joy (plus) can be heard. The exquisite ‘Watersong’ opens the album and for me screams classic Cranes. With its almost orchestral backdrop of violin, along with Alison’s enchanting vocal, this number encapsulates where this band come from. Originally, the album was 11 tracks, but this expanded edition contains 21, 9 clearly bonus tracks and a remix of the single ’Starblood’. 1993’s Forever (plus) follows and an album that comes across as far more commercial than perhaps their last had been. Something I found odd, for an album I had considered myself pretty conversant with, is how similar their second single from the album, ‘Jewel’ sounded to 1986’s ‘Medicine Show’ by Big Audio Dynamite. I’m not suggesting that the vocal sent bells ringing, but listen to the drum pattern used in the opening bars and you might find yourself adding Mick Jones’ lyrics before Alison chimes in. This album featured 2 singles: the single that preceded the release of ‘Jewel’ is the heavy-paced ‘Adrift’, a number with mechanical pace and dark backdrop, suggesting that rather than ‘popular’, the band were heading yet further into the shadows. This state of affairs is made none more so by the numbers that followed, as tracks ‘Clear’ and ‘Sun And Sky’ suggested exactly the opposite. With ‘Clear’ becoming murky and ‘Sun And Sky’, as dark as night. This album was a ray of light for the band, just as their music was becoming darker. As with the (plus) edition to Wings Of Joy, this includes 8 bonus tracks of b-sides, remixes and rarities, the Robert Smith mix of ‘Jewel’ is included, complete with a bass tone familiar to The Cure, and this is certainly worth investigating.

The album Loved (plus) comes next and with a Baleàric feel to the guitar that introduces ‘Shining Road’. This offers a ray of sunshine that pulls the work, out from the shadows. I simply loved the track that follows, as with its deep drum beat and distorted guitar, ‘Pale Blue Sky’ offers an upbeat shining ray of light, that in the morning will see you leave for the day ahead with a big grin. ‘Lilies’ and title track ‘Loved’ offer an augmented state of chaos, that will help you take those awkward moments in your stride. Why this band wasn’t embraced by the music-buying public, leaves me scratching my head. This (plus) edition features a further 7 tracks from the originally released 11 and hears 2 Flood mixes of tracks on the album. The first is ‘Lilies’ , then ‘Paris And Rome’, evoking the feel of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, I just love it. 2 more albums in this set to go and Population Four (plus) hears the single ‘Can’t Get Free’, with a relatively straightforward rhythm, but I want to take us back to track 2 and ‘Fourteen’ which for me simply sings. With its heavy beat and muted guitar, is a number that cries ‘Friday night indie-disco!’ An unusual break comes in ‘Stalk’, where lyrics are not sung by Alison, but Jim, in a dark tale of lost love, or as is suggested by the title, is this a perceived love. Very different from the songs Alison sings, presented by Jim’s lower vocal tones, the pace and presentation are just perfect. Released in 1997, this was the last album the band released in the Nineties.

The next and last for the Dedicated record label, La Tragedie d’Oreste et Electre is based on a theme of a play by Jean-Paul Sartre. What difference does this make to the production of the album? Well, quite a lot. First off Alison sings in French and the feel reminds me of the album recorded for the film Rumble Fish, very atmospheric and tells the tale with musical brush strokes. If only I paid more attention during the French lesson. A nice addition to this collection and certainly one for the completists, the music uses an orchestral palette, that does allow occasional words to leap from the page. I do know that  “derrière”, is behind and “chien”, is dog, from within the song ‘The Ceremony’, so perhaps I paid more attention than I realised, but a long way until I’m fluent. A delightful addition to the set and one that completes Volume 1. Hardly singles, but as a companion piece, worth the time to become familiar. A very worthwhile set of recordings, from a band that were missed by the general public. But remember the band continued to release work on their Dadaphonic record label, until 2008, so if you’re curious, go digging.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.