It's not easy being weird!
Having already put the whole of this album up on their website as a free download, The Crimea finally release their second, much anticipated album, 'Secrets Of The Witching Hour', the follow up to 2005's, 'Tragedy Rocks'. Once again it is the same old story for the kingpin of the band – the slightly crazy genius that is lead singer Davey MacManus, and drummer Owen Hopkin, who both had some success with the underrated indie-folk-punks, The Crocketts, before the powers that be at V2 dropped the band. This is of course what happened after The Crimea's first album failed to live up to the record label's standards for sales figures of their debut album, and Warner Bros dropped them, quite unceremoniously in 2006.
What you get with The Crimea are well crafted songs that build slowly in your brain with such great poetic lyrics that they live out long past the trash that the youngsters are being fed by way of what the radio and PR companies want you to hear. There has always been a slight similarity between The Crocketts, and The Crimea, with the latter certainly being the more mature and polished version, who is musically superior without losing Davey's abstract clasps of poetic meandering.
'Secrets Of The Witching Hour' starts off with a gentle intro, before first song, 'All Conquering' kicks in. It's a nice start reminding me of The Crocketts, '1939 Returning', before things turn completed on their head for, 'The 48A Waiting Steps', which starts of with strings before a jaunty keyboard gives us a tune that could well come from a German pop song, and then the guitar has a slight steal-sound to it, whilst there are echoing backing vocals. This for me is the weakest song here.
'Raining Planets' first appeared on the bands MySpace page as a Demo a few months ago and instantly I fell in love with it. It's a simple, slow song which has the lyrics taking centre stage over tinkling piano keys, and a clean drum beat. Even from the first lyrics you know what you are getting – "Currently residing in the where-are-they-now file // burnt out and in denial // throwing shapes in the mirror with your hairbrush // sing along, to ever fallen in love, by the buzzcocks..." Great stuff.
'Man' has a gentle beat with the weird keyboard sounds that we consider normal by now from the talented, Andrew Stafford, before we have the great, 'Bombay Sapphire Coma' that has single written all over it. Once again it's a song that has a great partnership between piano and lead guitar, whilst the lyrics dance around, clearly conceived by a mind that wonders through many worlds of imagination. One that is able to talk about clouds, utopia, and mermaids under your blanket...
Things slow down for, 'Don't Close Your Eyes On Me' which is beautiful, and it's also worth mentioning the underrated skills in back up vocals from Andrew Stafford, and bassist Joe Udwin, who have the ability of adding a soft padding to Davey's jittering and slightly manic vocals perfectly. We then have another song which still remains on the bands MySpace page, 'Loop A Loop', and believe me this is a grower of a song, as after a handful of listens you will find yourself not only mimicking the humming part all day, but also, you'll keep repeating, '"Damn girl gone loop, loop a loop a loop // loop a loop a loop...", and who cannot smile at a lines of, "Throw another small child on the fire // I'm trying to build an empire // one steps forwards baby, two steps back // moonwalking beneath a pirates flag..."
If you are looking for an anthem song, then 'Light Brigade' is it. It has everything a great song needs. It has catchy lyrics, strings, trumpets, and a thumping chorus. What more can you want? It's a tough call but right about now it's my favourite song on the album. Things then slow down for, 'Several Thousand Years Of Talking Nonsense' which Davey lists the things that he feels lucky for, like food in his belly, Ben And Jerry's ice-cream, the song, Fairytale in New York and one woman in a thousand that likes men with missing front teeth.
The last of the slow songs is next with, 'Requiem Aeternum' a song that comes across more beautifully live, even though we don't have the additional vocals from Amy May, you only have to look at Davey singing over the his acoustic guitar and guitarist Andy Norton, to see a great bond. The album finishes with the great song, 'Weird'. The song also tends to finish their live set and it couldn't be a more fitting song for the band. It has every element that you'd want – starts slowly with soothing musical back beat whilst Davey sweetly twists his vocal chords around lyrics surrounding pterodactyls, and the apocalypse, and the song builds up to a monster chorus that finishes with the lyrics, "It's not easy being weird in a world with no idea, how". It ends with everyone going crazy and even Andy Norton breaks his chains to show he can be as madcap and whacky as the bands leader.
'Secrets Of The Witching Hour' sounds different to 'Tragedy Rocks', it's hard to say how, but it does. You can't think that it is just another album full of the same old songs, even though there is the same elements. The Crimea have a skill at creating songs that have you scratching you head the first time you listen to them, then making you want to listen again even though you don't know why, before they suddenly jumping into your head and refusing to leave. The biggest problem is that you will no longer read Davey's lyrics and wonder about his tortured soul, but you will find yourself looking at life a little more poetically, and realising just how crap lyrics are of bands that Warner Bros are throwing money at.
If The Crimea never make it any bigger, I don't think themselves, or I, for that matter will care, just as long as they give us a couple more albums like these, and the charismatic Davey MacManus remains exactly the same, as they tour around the country playing to all of the people that appreciate real music. Okay, I admit it, I'm a fan.
As off a week ago the band had received just under 47,000 downloads of this album, which is pretty good. So whilst you're reading this you could be listening to it too! Check out their website: www.thecrimea.net