Sally Crewe & the Sudden Moves: Shortly After Take-Off

Zeth Lundy

Prickly summer music for those who like their guitar pop incisive and lean.

Sally Crewe & the Sudden Moves

Shortly After Take-Off

Label: 12XU
US Release Date: 2005-05-24
UK Release Date: 2005-06-20
Amazon affiliate

While its title may allude to more sprawling means of travel, Sally Crewe & the Sudden Moves' Shortly After Take-Off is close-range pop, the stuff that drowns out the thunderous din of passing traffic and lends a soundtrack to the unpredictable gusts of wind plummeting through the moon roof. Taut guitars that lurch and twitch, chord progressions that hang sharp lefts like Joe Jacksonian hunches, prominent oohs and ahhs: this is prickly summer music for those who like it incisive and lean. Crewe's trimmed her power trio sound down to an even more economical frame than 2003's swift Drive It Like You Stole It. Shortly After Take-Off feels like it was cut live in the studio, nearly drained of all embellishments, relying on the band to burn a straight line through the 33-minute runtime.

Crewe's all about exuberant pop hooks that burrow like nasty viruses, and Shortly After Take-Off is full of them. "Good Morning, Aston Martin" teases out its chorus before spiraling upwards like it knows the quickest route to bliss. "Pane of Glass" is incessantly likeable, the wordless vowels of its chorus inciting spontaneous living room dances and phantom handclaps. "(Don't Let Me) Talk About the Weather" thrusts its big chords around like they actually weigh something, each shift a palpable blow. And the bittersweet harmonies of "Airport Song", cribbed from the church of Wilson, are liable to provoke unsolicited swoons. Get ready to annoy your friends with your tone-deaf attempts to sing along as this stuff's infectious.

Like Drive It, Shortly After Take-Off finds comfort transposing a touch-and-go emotional canvas to cars and the sensation of movement. Possible epiphanies take hold at intersections ("Pane of Glass"), impending flights harbor indecision ("Airport Song"), and feelings are susceptible to hit-and-runs ("My Heart's a Motorway"). "We'll go for a drive / It makes me feel whole again," Crewe implores on "Little Rock Star", and she seems to always be moving like this, from place to place and moment to moment, her songs the burnt rubber scarring the road to prove that an idea existed and was documented.

With its abundant effervescence and itinerant imagery, Shortly After Take-Off zips by fast, no doubt about it, but the ride is often overshadowed by its presentation. Crewe's assembled group of musicians (including Phil Prime on drums and Rhodri Marsden on bass) don't always collectively adhere to the songs in the way that Spoon's Britt Daniel and Jim Eno did on Drive It. When the performances don't conform to the strict standards dictated by Crewe's tight songwriting, they disclose an uncomfortable relationship with the material. The guitars, so crucial to the record's sound, have a tendency to stumble off the rhythm's path. And taking into account an exception here or there, the record's production just sounds a bit bloodless. Shortly After Take-Off has the tendency to resonate like a quickly recorded batch of demos, not a thoroughly constructed set; the thin, frustratingly elemental sound is more like primer than paint, and it can do the songs a disservice by misrepresenting them.

Since the release of Drive It, Crewe has relocated from the UK to Austin, Texas. The move hasn't Americanized her sound; she's still writing songs that seem to intrepidly challenge figureheads like Graham Parker and Squeeze at their own game. Though the hesitant riff of the opener "Casino" suggests Exile-era Liz Phair, the chorus' lift, prodded by one banged-out piano note, is all lilting new wave strut. The song itself is a tough sell: a verse that feels fragmented, a chorus that seems to abruptly end before it even gets started. It's the kind of song that begs for reexamination by implying there's something more to gain than what's audible on the surface. In fact, most of Shortly After Take-Off's songs could be eligible for similar scrutiny, but their underfed presentation never quite convinces.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.