The Cribs / Giant Drag / Jeffrey Lewis and the Jacks - Manchester Academy 2 - 17.02.06

An anti-folk extravaganza was happening before our eyes with the diversely talented New Yorker Jeffrey Lewis backed by his brother Jack on bass and Dave Beauchamp on percussion, treating us to an educating set of freestyle soft rock. The eccentric spirit of The Fall and the poignancy of Leonard Cohen are utilized to devastating effect throughout. The title track from first album ‘The Last Time I Did Acid I went Insane’ that changes every time I have heard it live, takes us to another dimension with Jeff’s 900ish words per minute power ball of life summarizing, striking a chord with fascinated onlookers towards the front.

 The psychedelic nature continues into the punk based ‘Time Machine’ from the 3rd and latest album ‘City & Eastern Songs’. Its snappy and frantic flitting makes it perfect for tonight’s crowd. We did not have to wait too long for the trademark low budget storybook production, as Jeff takes us through ‘The Complete History of Communism Part 3’ by embracing the technological age. The pictures are displayed on white bed sheet behind him, put there by the help of PowerPoint. The drawings have lost none of the descriptive simplicity, while damning caricatures of Stalin & Lenin facilitate the didactic process. Never before has the plight of the Russian people been told so succinctly and with such lucid insight. Critics are always saying there is not enough diversity and boldness in music, well with this trio it is here in abundance. Is the music industry open and welcoming enough to harness their full potential?

Continuing the minimalist approach to music making are the industrial sounding power-indie pair of Giant Drag. They combine the instrumental pace and structure of The Breeders and My Bloody Valentine, with a strolling Bjork and the odd tempo lifting nod towards VV Kills style of cherubic front girl Anna. ‘This Isn’t It’ is sung with hearty defiance and propelled by a bolstering drum beat to make for a biting lovelorn display of awareness and defiance.

Tonight, Anna reminds us of how the fine art of swearing to shock has not been lost, if she died her hair blonde she could walk into any theatre and demand the role of Alice in Wonderland with her innocent appearance. So when she starts says things like “Fuck me like my dad” and telling us of a time she was in love with guy 20 years older than her (she was 8 at the time), you truly don’t know where to look. The leading lady’s stage presence is a calm and composed one, illuminated when she castigates hecklers by introducing the punchy ‘Kevin Is Gay’and tagging on the retort “so are you”. Giant Drag possesses enough tightness and boldness to make an impact, if tonight's performance is anything to go by.
Maybe it is fear of not wanting to be dubbed a scenester that sends the pit into ruptures upon on hearing the first notes of ‘Mirror Kissers’, as the Wakefield woe bashers of The Cribs connect with the crowd right from the off. The three Jarman brothers are in their usually exuberant mood, treating us to the delights of ‘Direction’, driven from the thudding base of Ross’ ardent and controlled percussion, matching the sound of the thudding feet on the arena floor.

The bones of punk are hung out to dry on a clothesline of catchy indie riffs that holds together the Sham 69 and football chant crossover vocals in ‘I’m Allright Me’, to make for a boozy Friday night anthem to get lost in. A yearning old offering ‘The Lights Went Out’, gave us all a chance to have a must needed rest and sing along to a yearning pop pearl.  The night concludes with the dual vocal approached ‘The Wrong Way To Be’, incorporating a mish-mash of throaty cries from Ryan, punctuated by the ardent spoken vocals of Gary. The latter brother mounted the drum rack towards the end of the song, to pelt out rabid beats and finish a buoyant evening of rock rehabilitation.

David Adair

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