Britain has a long tradition of literate, whimsical guitar pop that can be traced back to The Kinks over 40 years ago, taking in the likes of Belle and Sebastian, Orange Juice and The Smiths in their most playful mood along the way, as well as a host of lesser-known names.
Sheffield's The Crookes are the latest new act to emerge off the steel city's recently rejuvenated conveyor belt of hotly tipped indie contenders, largely following in the wake of Arctic Monkeys. But as one might expect from a group of recent literature graduates, this four-piece's music is more English faculty lecture theatre than Friday night taxi rank, recalling many of the luminaries mentioned above.
Formed at Sheffield University two years ago, this eight-track EP of early songs is intended to whet the appetite before The Crookes' first album proper appears in a few months' time. While clearly a band still finding its voice, they show enough potential and range here to suggest that a bright future may well beckon.
Backstreet Lovers kicks things off promisingly with an infectious, jangling guitar hook and jaunty melody that brings to mind a less-boorish Fratellis, before a switch to a mellower mood on the wistful, Gene-like nostalgia of Somewhere Over the Bus Stop and a flirtation with finger-clicking doo-wop on Yes, Yes, We Are Magicians. The closing, minute-long Mrs Porter shares Belle and Sebastian's occasionally smug propensity for twee wordplay, but it's preceded by a winningly ramshackle, surprisingly moving version of South Yorkshire neighbour and touring mate Richard Hawley's Born Under a Bad Sign.
Overall, there are more plusses than minuses here, but The Crookes still have work to do if they're to progress beyond an occasional appearance on the soundtrack of The Inbetweeners. In particular, George Waite's vocals sound rather like Noah and the Whale's Charlie Fink doing a Morrissey impression, which sums up the dilemma for a band who haven't decided yet whether they want to be pleasantly inoffensive or an act of genuine stature. That first album should go a long way towards answering the question.
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