The Cribs rock live show; Goldfrapp produces gem

Ryan Wood

This may go down as the quote of 2008, and it’s only April! Here’s the scenario:

A week or so ago, a good friend and I got set for The Cribs to hit the stage at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston.

A girl from Norway came up to me right as the U.K. punk rock band ripped into “Don’t You Want to be Relevant?” “Is this the band?” she yelled into my ear.

Had she had too much to drink? Was sitting through the two opening acts painful for her? Was it too cold for her to walk any further from her dorm?

“Yes,” I said, assuming that the latter was the most likely scenario. “This is the band.”

A smile and a nod of the head later, she went back to her friends, mouthed “yes” and pointed at the stage.

“Is this the band?” Unbelievable.

You can check out my thoughts about the Cribs’ Boston show further down in this scatterbrained column. But first, check out these new releases that keep the wheel of my iPod spinning right round, baby, right round.

Heavy rotation

Goldfrapp - Seventh Tree (Mute)

Most 41-year-old music lovers still dream about making it big in an industry overwrought with ridiculously phenomenal talent. They should’ve started living vicariously through their idols years ago, but now they have to revert to air guitars and karaoke bars to feel like rock stars.

Here we have 41-year-old Alison Goldfrapp, closing in on her 42nd birthday and looking no more than 25 years old. Some people speculate that Alison’s age is far less than 42, that she’s really in her 20s, but that’s so moot at this point. What matters most is the music that Ms. Goldfrapp and Will Gregory make.

The duo has somersaulted the electronica genre ever since Goldfrapp’s 2000 debut record, Felt Mountain. An absolute gem and easily one of the top 10 electronica albums of all time, Felt gave Goldfrapp instant electro credibility. The next two discs, Black Cherry and Supernature, didn’t quite match the sophistication of Felt as the band expanded its range and edged its toes closer to the dance floor.

On Seventh Tree, Goldfrapp eases into each track, which brings out Alison’s pure, lush and elegant vocals. The synth-driven background isn’t too overdone. It allows Alison’s glowing vocals to tiptoe fluidly from one bar to the next.

Sounding like Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, with a side dish of electro-folk acoustic guitar and orchestral echoes, “Clowns” is absolutely splendid. “Happiness,” wrapped in a psychedelic, space age climate, radiates from start to finish. The album’s finale, “Monster Love,” rounds out what will easily become a contender for record of the year.

Goldfrapp plays the Coachella Festival April 25, the Beacon Theater in New York April 29, and then it’s off to Barcelona for an eastern European tour. Visit

Dengue Fever

So far, this year, we’ve heard at least one band – Vampire Weekend – tap into and explore world music. The New York City foursome flawlessly blended Afro-pop with 1970s folk. But the college chums don’t exactly have direct roots to international music.

Dengue Fever does.

Lead singer Chhom Nimol spent years singing at weddings and funerals and for the country’s king and queen in her native Cambodia. A few years back, Nimol joined the members who started Dengue Fever. Keyboardist Ethan and his brother, guitarist Zac Holtzman, embraced Cambodian pop, mainly the 1960s style of it. When Nimol decided to join the band, she brought her Cambodian heritage with her.

On Venus on Earth, Nimol, the Holtzman brothers, drummer Paul Smith, saxophonist David Ralicke and bassist Senon Williams take Cambodian pop and meticulously stir it with a smidgen of psychedelic rock, slight twang and a tiny bite of jazzy horn arrangements.

Unique to the states? Yeah. Innovative? Sure. “Mr. Orange,” a combination of early, Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd synth sounds and guitar play and whimsical and wavy vocals from Nimol, exemplifies the band’s depth. “Tiger Phone Card” too closely echoes “Mr. Orange,” and the so-so “Sober Driver” shows how this record slightly lacks consistency.

If you want to see Dengue Fever in the near future, start planning a road trip. Hit Soho in Santa Barbara, Calif., April 17, or go to the three-day Sasquatch! Music Festival in The Gorge, Washington May 24. Seriously, go to Sasquatch. Dengue Fever play the same day as R.E.M., Modest Mouse, M.I.A., The National, and The Breeders.

Hot Chip

Eh. Yeah, just eh. Hot Chip’s third disc, Made in the Dark, takes too many twists and turns; it feels like you took a spin on the Tilt-a-Whirl with a stomach full of fried dough and freshly squeezed lemonade.

British electro-pop doesn’t exactly induce sheer boredom, but at times Hot Chip manages to do it here, which is disappointing; in the past, this band has proved that it’s capable of more.

The record is a bit scattered. One minute it hits you with superb dance floor filler (“Ready for the Floor”), and the next, it strangely takes a turn in the melancholy ballad direction with the sleepy “In the Privacy of Our Own Love.” The energy seesaws, and when it maxes out, Hot Chip light up. The strobe-light eccentricity of “Shake a Fist” and classic techno shimmying on “Hold On” keep the record bouncing, but the small collection of mundane ballads lack any feeling.

When you get a dose of electro-pop, you don’t expect any type of slowdown. There’s too much of that here.

Hot Chip plays the Paradise Rock Club in Boston April 14. They hit the Vic Theatre in Chicago April 17, the Fillmore in San Francisco April 24, and Coachella April 26.

Live scene

Nothing screams punk rock more than walking offstage while knocking over the mic stand, grinding your guitar against your amp to create deafening feedback, and playing through a song despite a serious wardrobe malfunction. The Cribs managed to do all three as the band tore through a fiery, 45-minute set at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club March 21.

Guitarist/singer Ryan Jarman’s tattered red and white striped t-shirt – yes, the one he wore a day earlier at the band’s New York City gig – slid down as the band tore into the set. After opening with the non-album track, “Don’t You Wanna Be Relevant,” Jarman’s shirt began to slink downward.

“I like your nipple,” someone a few feet away from the stage yelled to Ryan.

“Really?” Ryan responded. “I think it’s a bit deformed.”

Ah, rock and roll will never die.

After “Relevant,” The Cribs dove right into the angst anthem, “Our Bovine Public.”

The U.K. threesome’s set radiated with their loyal following. Those up front never stopped moving throughout the show.

Although they’ve released three discs, The Cribs primarily stuck to their latest record – Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever. They threw in a couple tracks from The New Fellas and one track, “Another Number,” from their self-titled, 2005 debut disc. Halfway through the set, the Cribs played an ace cover of The Replacement’s “Bastards of Young.”

As bassist and singer Gary Jarman pushed his mic stand over and Ross Jarman jumped off his drum seat, Ryan dragged his guitar across the band’s Orange amp. He walked up to a mic stand with a humming fuzzy feedback drowning out his vocals. Did he sing? Did he thank the crowd? It’s still a mystery, but the girls, and the rest of the Boston crowd, liked it.

On the side

It’s no secret – in the United Kingdom, nothing is when it comes to gossip – but, yes, Cribs singer and guitarist Ryan Jarman is, in fact, dating London singer/songwriter Kate Nash. The U.K. press first reported on the pairing late last year but was only recently confirmed by The Cribs’ U.S. publicist. They get music before the U.S. does; why not get the gossip, too, right?

It’s also no surprise that Nash enjoys covering other musician’s songs. The 20-year-old Brit has covered Arctic Monkeys’ “Fluorescent Adolescent,” the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” Cold War Kids’ “Hang Me Out to Dry,” Black Kids’ “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You,” Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” and The Cribs’ “Men’s Needs.”

“I know that Ryan likes it, The Cribs one I did,” Nash said in December, moments before taping an episode of the satirical U.K. show, Never Mind the Buzzcocks. “I think it’s important in the fact that The Cribs stand for being a real kind of indie – a real indie band – and having punk ethics and having opinions. And that’s really important.”

So, what does Ryan Jarman of The Cribs think?

“I thought it was really good,” Jarman said via cell phone from Austin, Texas. “I really liked it. It was just before we started dating each other, and I was really pleased by it. I have a lot of respect for her as a musician and an artist. I have a lot of respect for her in that way. I think she did a good job.”

Ryan Wood is a freelance writer who has contributed to the Community Newspaper Company, The Sun (London), The Weekly Dig, The Noise, and Earlash. Send him an email at