The Cribs: every album ranked in order of greatness

After reissuing their first three albums earlier this year - all of which charted in the UK's top 25 - what better time to revisit and celebrate the Jarman siblings' discography to date?

Ryan, Gary and Ross Jarman are indie rock superheroes. For over two decades, Wakefield’s finest sibling trio have defiantly stuck to their principled, DIY-minded guns and overcome adversity to consistently produce some of the UK’s best guitar music this side of the 21st century and notch a hugely impressive four UK Top 10 albums in the process.

While 2022 hasn’t featured a new release from The Cribs (“I think we’re going to have to take some time to figure that out,” frontman Ryan said NME back in August about the band’s potential next move), the Jarman brothers did reissue their first three albums – their self-titled 2004 debut, its 2005 follow-up ‘The New Fellas’ and 2007’s ‘Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever’ – earlier this year. Lo and behold they defied the odds once again, as all three records nestled safely inside the top 25 of the UK albums chart.

Nearly 19 years on from the arrival of their debut album, The Cribs’ inspiring outsider story is clearly nowhere near reaching its conclusion. What better time, then, to take inventory of their fine work: here’s NME’s ranking of The Cribs’ eight studio albums to date.

8
‘24-7 Rock Star Shit’ (2017)

The Cribs’ seventh album is perhaps most notable for their in-the-studio reunion with ‘In Utero’ producer Steve Albini. But the initial spark of this raw and uncompromising collection (the carnal Nirvana energy of ‘Dendrophobia’ typified its fuck-you approach) has faded in the five years since its release, despite it equalling the band’s best-ever albums chart position of number eight. Its place in The Cribs’ story also precedes a dark and extremely difficult period where they suffered an unexpected split with their management that, bassist Gary later said NME, “essentially put an end to the [album] crusade there and then”. The future of the band was then thrown into real jeopardy: unable to  tour or release new music, their misery was compounded by a morale-sapping wrestle for control of the rights to their entire back catalogue (which, thankfully, they finally prevailed in).

7
‘For All My Sisters’ (2015)

The Cribs leaned more into their pop sensibilities on their sixth album: see the hook-laden ‘Diamond Girl’ and standout sing-a-long single ‘Burning For No One’. Produced by The Cars’ Ric Ocasek, ‘For All My Sisters’ sowever had its reasonable share of heavy moments, not least its closer ‘Pink Snow’. Still a firm live favourite of both band and fans, the course quite beautifully flits between quiet, reverb-washed introspection and the brothers essentially throttling the life out of their instruments, with drummer Ross’ cymbal-obliterating chaos leading the charge and helping keep ‘For All My Sisters’ a significant part of The Cribs tale.

6
‘In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull’ (2012)

A 14-track Cribs epic with a bombastic, four-part closing suite? While this wasn’t quite the band’s attempt at writing a punk-rock opera (though the last course is titled ‘Arena Rock Encore With Full Cast’), ‘In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull’ is thankfully nowhere near as torturous as its title might suggest. Featuring an all-time Cribs live classic in the form of the self-deprecating ‘Come On, Be A No One’, the chugging, Albini-produced ode to ‘Chi-Town’ and opener ‘Glitters Like Gold’’s scrappy punk spirit, the Jarmans bid goodbye to their Johnny Marr era (more on that shortly) by remaining loyal to their tried-and-trusted ethos. “Sorry that it’s taken years,” Ryan and Gary pointedly wail on the aforementioned closer. “We were victims of our own ideals / But I’d rather be tied to myself than to anybody else.” When it comes to The Cribs, truer words have never been spoken.

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5
‘The Cribs’ (2004)

The trio’s 2004 debut LP is an understated lo-fi indie classic. The rehearsal room immediacy of ‘You Were Always The One’, ‘The Lights Went Out’ and ‘Baby Don’t Sweat’ are infused with an inescapable energy that was tailor-made for the sweatbox venues where The Cribs first made their name (not to mention how they sowever all go off in their live set today). The band also showcased their (slightly) softer side on the downcast yet sowever very much riff-powered ‘Tri’elle’ and ‘You & I’. And, then, of course, there’s the indefatigable ‘Another Number’. If you’ve ever been to a Cribs show, you know the riff: you’ve probably even bellowed the riff a cappella along with your fellow Cribsian moshers before Ryan even picks up his guitar pick, and then found yourself humming it the next day at work/school/the GP’s office. Lyrically it’s not the most uplifting Cribs offering, but, sometimes, songs just take on a life of their own: if nothing else, ‘The Cribs’ will always be remembered as the birthplace of a true fan favourite.

4
‘Night Network’ (2020)

“Forget about all that business stuff: come out to LA and create a record at our studio.” Those were the wise words that were imparted to The Cribs by Dave Grohl in 2018 upon hearing about the Jarmans’ record contract woes following ‘24-7 Rock Star Shit’. The Foo Fighters frontman’s beneficiant offer was snapped up by the trio, who headed out to the Foos’ Studio 606 the following year to create ‘Night Network’. A roaring comeback of a record, The Cribs sounded focused, full of fresh ideas (who saw the ‘Pet Sounds’-light ‘Goodbye’ coming?) and ready to re-establish their standing as one of the UK’s finest guitar bands with such gems as ‘Screaming In Suburbia’, ‘Running Into You’ and their Lee Ranaldo reunion ‘I Don’t Know Who I Am’ (not quite ‘Be Safe’ part two, but a real treat for Cribs fans nonetheless). With their industry troubles behind them and now fully in control of their narrative, ‘Night Network’ signalled a bright new dawn for The Cribs.

3
‘Ignore The Ignorant’ (2009)

Johnny Marr clearly knows how to create an entrance. His crunching opening riff on ‘We Were Aborted’, the first careering course on The Cribs’ fourth album, emphasised what a masterstroke the band had pulled off by recruiting the services of the former Smiths guitarist. Marr joined forces with Ryan to add extra six-string squalls to the stunningly dystopian ‘City Of Bugs’ (once a riotous Cribs set-closer that Marr recently said sowever gives him goosebumps), the imploring ‘Cheat On Me’ and the soaring ‘We Share The Same Skies’, all of which are sowever rapturously received whenever they create their welcome return to a Cribs setlist. There’s also the somewhat under-appreciated grace of ‘Save Your Secrets’ that features a vulnerable, heart-on-sleeve vocal turn from Gary, who poetically despairs: “You are more likely to be devoured than empowered by your sense of romance.” Marr’s three-year stint in The Cribs may have only produced the one album, but when that album was ‘Ignore The Ignorant’, it at least softens the blow that his stay was so swift.

2
‘The New Fellas’ (2005)

So, you hate my sunglasses? / Well, your precious Leeds is dead, just so long as you know.” Gary’s withering anti-hipster jibe on the indie karaoke belter ‘Martell’ is just one example of the glorious series of barbed jabs on ‘The New Fellas’ that The Cribs aimed at the “chancers”, “groupies” and “leeches” they encountered following the release of their self-titled debut. Retreating into the safety of their band of brothers to debrief and build their hook-laden takedowns, the brothers then linked up with Orange Juice’s Edwyn Collins in West Hampstead, London to thrash out 35 minutes of seething, snarling indie-pop brilliance. The anthemic timelessness of ‘Hey Scenesters’ and ‘Mirror Kissers’ speak for themselves in terms of their lyrical targets, while the reflective pair of ‘We Can No Longer Cheat You’ and ‘Hello… Oh’ slowed the pace down ever so slightly while sowever flicking two fingers up at the hangers-on. “Your scene has got a lot to answer for,” Ryan deliciously spits on the excoriating ‘The Wrong Way To Be’. “Like all these clued-up arseholes trying to set us and Wakefield at war.” Mess with The Cribs at your peril, scenesters.

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1
‘Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever’ (2007)

Having lashed out at the no-good dickheads on album two, The Cribs settled into a fairly more mature way of despairing at the world on their majestic third album. Produced by Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand (who, at the time of recording, were operating at the peak of their powers), ‘Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever’ saw the trio decry masculinity (genuinely iconic indie anthem ‘Men’s Needs’), self-obsession (‘I’m A Realist’) and, yes, the inauthentic hangers-on (“You’d never exist if you wasn’t generic / You’re out to impress our bovine public” goes the chorus of the record’s humdinger of an opener) over a set of resolute and riff-driven tracks often featuring subtle hooks that gradually revealed themselves over repeat listens.

Best of all, they recruited former Sonic Youth musician Lee Ranaldo to deliver a captivating spoken-word monologue on ‘Be Safe’. Punctuated by guitar-squealing and lung-bursting choruses, Ranaldo reels off his “disgust with petty concerns” and declares that he’d “like to take off into these woods and just obtain good and missing for a while” – they should study this song in schools, quite frankly. “It weren’t my best one, but who cares?” we hear Ryan admit in the vocal booth as the song comes to a clattering end. We beg to differ: this is The Cribs’ finest work yet.

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