PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

The Crookes: Soapbox

Sheffield lads continue their run of exceptional, hook-laden indie pop with their latest release.

The Crookes


Label: Modern Outsider
US Release Date: 2014-04-15
UK Release Date: 2014-04-14

Listening to the Crookes can often feel like a game of spot the influence, UK Edition. Fortunately, the Sheffield group’s tastes and influences skew to the impeccable, crafting exceptional indie pop heavy on hooks and possessing exemplary lyrics, all expertly emoted by lead vocalist and bassist George Waite. From the Smiths to Orange Juice, Belle & Sebastian to Pulp, Radiohead to the Jam, the Crookes clearly know their musical lineage well and, with Soapbox, rightly state their case for admittance into the hallowed ranks of their more well-known predecessors.

From note one, the Crookes display an expert ear for hooks as opening track “Play Dumb” relies on a melodic riff featuring guitar/bass interplay to carry the verses before erupting into full-on guitar pop assault on the chorus with heavy drums staking out the two and four. It’s essentially the start of a doctoral thesis on guitar-based indie rock and pop in which the Crookes expertly explore their country’s rich indie heritage in a manner appropriately befitting their predecessors.

“Don’t Put Your Faith in Me” is incessantly catchy guitar pop with a harder edge underscored by a lyrical innocence generally more associated with indie pop. Like just about everything else here, its melody is hummable, hook-y and catchy as hell, leading to a bridge section that soars ahead of an insistent, backbeat-heavy snare. Sure it can be seen as a bit formulaic and perhaps “safe” by naysayers, but there can be no arguing with the exceptional execution and endless energy with which the Crookes attack these tracks (even the ever-fickle Noel Gallagher has sung their praises, commending their exceptional lyrics).

“Echolalia”, one of the few tracks here that sounds more or less grounded in the present rather than unmoored and unbound to any one particular time period, is the most Vampire Weekend-like (a group to which they’re often compared by those looking for contemporary references and somewhat unfairly so). Lead vocalist George Waite keens and swoops his syllables in a manner more than a bit reminiscent of Ezra Koenig in both style and timbre.

“Before the Night Falls” possesses an urgency reminiscent of Pulp’s Different Class and could easily pass for an outtake from that group’s later period work as Waite channels his inner Jarvis Cocker, nearly falling all over himself in the process. Its follow-up track, “Holy Innocents”, is the lone quiet number on the album featuring just Waite’s almost alarmingly intimate vocals and piano before an exploratory guitar figure, roomy atmospherics and a stuttering martial drumbeat brings the whole thing into early-2000s Radiohead territory.

Of the album’s back half, “When You’re Fragile” shines brightest in a clutch of polished pop gems, functioning as a perfectly crafted pop song with major/minor contrasts, loud/soft dynamics and an epic, emotive chorus possessing a massive hook that, despite its Coldplay-esque title, eschews any sort of musical fragility. Album closer “Soapbox” is insistent in a manner reminiscent of latter period Jam circa That’s Entertainment with its steady backbeat, rumbling bass, stabbing guitar lines and lyrical disgust with the modern world, exploding on the outro chorus with Waite straining to contain a scream as he delivers the final lyrical couplets.

While plenty of groups are exploring and have explored similar sonic and thematic terrain in recent years, few are doing it as consistently and as well as the Crookes. With Soapbox they’ve crafted yet another gem in a growing catalog of near-perfect guitar-based pop.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.