Crazy Arm – The Southern Wild (Xtra Mile Recordings)
CD, DL, (12″ Vinyl in the near future)
Out 23rd September
Plymouth punks Crazy Arm have gone all acoustic and country on us with their new album. Ian Critchley approves of the result.
The first thing that strikes the listener about this record is just how goddamn strange it is in comparison to previously released material from Crazy Arm. The band took their name from a Ray Price song, and have always been laced with a strong sense of country twang, but until now their sound has always been overwhelmed by the punk rock side of their platter. One reviewer once called them “Fugazi with banjos” or something to that effect, but The Southern Wild sees the entire punk element of their music tossed into the fire leaving a completely stripped down, wholly acoustic, sound which feels as if it’d be better suited being released in the early fifties than the modern day.
But Crazy Arm can’t run from themselves, and I don’t believe they’re really trying to, as it still features the same calibre of lyrical content, vocal melodies and excellent guitar parts that have made the band a constantly growing presence in the UK music scene. ‘Don’t Be Cruel’, if listened to carefully, is very reminiscent of ‘Blind Summit’ from their debut LP for these exact reasons. The tempo has been slowed to a snails pace in comparison but the underlying energy and rebellion of the early days is still deeply rooted within each second.
The record will no doubt be met with great acclaim. Though they were previously held in great esteem by KERRANG!, for their second LP Union City Breath, this record may see the band falling more into the arms of the less heavy rock and more indie side of the market. With bands like Mumford & Sons making the traditional folk and country sounds more accessible to the mainstream listener it would be no far stretch to see this album swept up into the fury of that same hurricane. This would both be a blessing and a curse for the Arm, as though their fanbase would increase exponentially their very outspoken anti-establishment credibility may become slightly tarred by no fault of their own.
Whether this album will go down with already established fans of the Arm is debatable. It all depends if they can look past the lack of fast paced rock, distorted guitars, and guttural vocal parts, which I hope they can, because though it’s a complete departure from the old it is still a fantastic record in its own right. The Southern Wild probably isn’t the new Crazy Arm sound for the future, and is probably more a bizarre experiment to see if they could pull off and more traditional, totally unplugged, country album. Which they did, with great success. The next release from the Arm will no doubt be back to their angry noise making ways but I can only hope that they’ll release another record in the same vein as this one. Much like the band Ween, a band that are willing to break convention and try something new and exciting, often at great risk, gets far more respect from myself than bands that are merely beating the proverbial dead horse.
The band are currently on tour, dates can be found here. The band can be liked on Facebook and followed on Twitter. They are also on MySpace and BandCamp. Pre orders of the album are available now from Xtra Mile Recordings
All words by Ian Critchley. More writing by Ian on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.