Friday, August 13, 2010

The Cribs - "I'm A Realist" (LP Review)

This is an odd sort of EP from The Cribs: I think it only exists for the public in digital form, although I've found some evidence on ebay that it also exists (under a different cover) as a promo-only 4 track EP (the entry seems to support this theory as well).

In my quest to acquire the back catalog of The Cribs (see my other reviews), I tried to find a CD version of this EP. Failing in that, I broke down and bought it on iTunes, which I have to confess is very unsatisfying. Yes, I understand that I'm something of a fossil by continuing to buy hard-copy formats of music, but 1) the collector in me isn't satisfied if there isn't a physical manifestation, and 2) my professional interests in digital preservation make me more optimistic about the long-term viability of CDs over my iTunes library.

Should you buy this EP online? Or hunt up a promo version on ebay? The short answer is "yes". It is mostly a collection of songs that have appeared in other releases, but some of them have been difficult to get and/or have only been in 7" vinyl. And if you're a hard-core collector, then promo-only releases are gems in your collection (for example, I'm proud to have a copy of DJ Shadow's "One to Grow On" promo-only LP).

The title track is the final single from 2007's "Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever" LP. It's not a bad song, but it certainly wasn't a standout track from the LP. This EP also contains a remix of "I'm A Realist" from The Postal Service, which I believe is the only track on this EP you can't find elsewhere. I'm a big fan of Jimmy Taborello (1/2 of TPS; see also my review of "Dumb Luck"), and while I really like the idea of a TPS remix of a song by The Cribs, I can't say it works that well. It is "interesting", and it sounds exactly like what a TPS remix should sound like, and while I'm happy to have it as a collector I don't really play it all that often.

However, the other two tracks on the EP I play all the time. "Don't You Wanna Be Relevant" and "Kind Words From the Broken Hearted" first appeared as a 7" non-LP single in 2007 after the release of MNWNW. "Don't You Wanna Be Relevant" is a blistering continuation of their previous songs like "Hey Scenesters" and "Mirror Kissers"; conventional wisdom says The Pigeon Detectives are the target of the band's wrath in this song. No one can do sneer and snarky like The Cribs.

"Kind Words From the Broken Hearted" would sound at home on either of their first LPs. This is in part because it was produced by Edwyn Collins (who also produced "The New Fellas") after his recovery from illness. There should be a law that requires Collins to produce every LP by The Cribs -- they simply don't miss when they get together.

The digital-only version closes with a video for "Our Bovine Public" from MNWMW. Not new material, but an excellent song and the video draws heavily from the DVD set "Live At The Brudenell Social Club".

Standout songs: "Don't You Wanna Be Relevant" (live version), "Kind Words From the Broken Hearted" (live version), "Our Bovine Public" (live version, Jools Holland).

Skip 'em songs: none.

Final score: 8/10, on the strength of "DYWBR" and "KWFTBH" and being the last release of the pre-Johnny Marr era.

Bonus Links: "I'm A Realist" (live version on Jools Holland; live version w/ Johnny Marr), "I'm A Realist (The Postal Service Remix)" -- these aren't good enough to be "standout", but they're not really "skip 'em" either.

Bonus Links #2: The B-side of the original 7" of "I'm A Realist" featured a cover of "Bastards of Young" by The Replacements: cover by The Cribs, original by The Replacements.

Bonus Links #3: Wichita Recordings has the official video for "Don't You Wanna Be Relevant", but the audio volume is very low. It's a great video, but you'll need to really crank your volume.

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