Album and Gig Reviews

There’s a few new album reviews turned up on the web, and they’re not too shabby either. Stylus Magazine give the album a B rating, saying “Macmanus’s unappeased ache is the splintered reflection of the love-fearing adolescent in all of us”. Subba Cultcha also like the album, comparing The Crimea to Grandaddy, Brighteyes and Mercury Rev. And Manchester Music give a shorter review ending in a 4 out of 5 rating.

Pointing you in the right direction is the Morning Paper site with, dare I say it, hopefully one of the last album release stories I’ll have to write about here.

The CrimeaSo, on to the gigs, and the BBC Berkshire site has a preview up of a gig last month. A bit late, but what can you do. More recent is the review of the band’s Wrexham Station gig a few days ago from Glasswerk, and this one from Fat Amp Music of the band’s recent Modest Mouse support slot in Wolverhampton.

The Crimea
Secrets of the Witching Hour
Internet Release

Secrets of the Witching Hour will provoke some good double takes, particularly for the uninitiated. If the album’s casting of Regina Spektor as Hamlet doesn’t trip your wires, the late-period-U2 bluster of “All Conquering” will. The Crimea are a pop band drenched in romance, and have always worn their influences with pride (witness their sublimely unironic B-side cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere”), but “All Conquering” works so hard at self-affirmation, pitting two anthemic themes against each another, one can only conclude that the ship must be sinking. Davey MacManus syllogizes “If we don’t believe we are all conquering / How shall we conquer? / If we don’t believe in ourselves / Who else is there?” with all the rhetorical flair of the heroically doomed.

MacManus has a penchant for agonized introspection, but the Crimea can be forgiven some existential angst; after a debut album on Warner Bros (the very tasty Tragedy Rocks), and an appearance on “Top of the Pops” (RIP), the band was unceremoniously dumped, in a textbook example of major label idiocy, when it became clear they were not on the fast track to Next Big Thing status. Thus it says “Internet Release” above because the band is releasing the album for free from their website. Way of the future, mark my words.

But having exorcised their demons of self-doubt on “All Conquering,” or at least given them a good pop hook to chew on, the Crimea pick up the swooning where they left off last time. MacManus’ indiscriminate pop culture fetishism is undiminished, littering his lyrics with movie titles and cultural landmarks. “Raining Planets,” MacManus’ most pensive lyric to date, trips through a whimsical piano melody while he charts the obscure decline of a indie-rock hopeful who works—“Shades down, incognito”—at Domino’s and sings into a hairbrush. The song? “Ever Fallen in Love?” …pause for a few dreamy beats… “By the Buzzcocks.” The song traipses along until it is interrupted by a glowering guitar and a traditionally OTT Crimea chorus about vultures and the end of the world.

“Man,” one of the best things on the album, suggests that as well as the Buzzcocks, they’ve been listening to Modest Mouse block-funk guitar lines, forging an unbroken backbone at the rear of the perpetual heartbreak. The band has finally worked its way through a backlog of delicious odds and ends from their early singles with “Bombay Sapphire Coma,” but MacManus sounds abashed by the delirious lyrics about fluffy clouds and hooking up, making up for it with a soccer-chant outro, singing “It’s a beautiful day to die.”

The candy-floss arrangements risk cloying at moments, at least in the internet rip. But as much as they flirt with overkill, the Crimea have a talent for puncturing their own romantic haze, with faux-innocent, throwaway choruses or Moonlight Sonata piano figures. “Requiem Aeternum,” poses as a self-important, Spanish guitar musing on death and love, then MacManus sings, in a choirboy’s tentative upper register: “Love / It keeps the goldfish swimming / Saw “Basic Instinct” when I was seventeen years old / Love / Still got the scars to show.”

Then again, there will be those who do not favor the cracking reed in MacManus’ voice; like a callow incarnation of the Dears’ Murray Lightburn, he always sounds just emerged from a monumental bout of sobbing, hoarse and tremulous, prone to sudden, inarticulate furies and fractured fits of irrational exuberance. But for the unrepentant romantics among us, Macmanus’s unappeased ache is the splintered reflection of the love-fearing adolescent in all of us, prismatic shards of joy and pain that shine equally brilliantly when he breaks his voice wide open on “Man” and album-closer “Weird.”

Witching Hour clocks in at less than forty minutes—a modest album despite the pretensions of “Several Thousand Years of Talking Nonsense.” It concludes, as all such albums must, with the apocalypse (again), as “Pterodactyls take on the helicopter gunships,” a garage-band chorus, and an ending that recalls Elbow’s Cast of Thousands, a horde chanting “The Bastard that made us all.” Too much? Absolutely, but that’s the idea. Teenage suburban Peter Pans, the Crimea inhabit the disaffected, lovesick defiance familiar to anyone who’s ever been a fourteen-year-old boy pulling the finger at the heavens.

Review by Andrew Iliff for Stylus Magazine, 29/05/07.

The Crimea
Secrets Of The Witching Hour
Free Two One

Plaistow popsters explore a dark surreal world. Grandaddy meets Brighteyes with a hint of Mercury Rev perhaps?

Are they from Modesto or Nebraska – Plaistow apparently, although you’d never know it! ‘Secrets of the Witching Hour,’ is The Crimea’s follow up to the much acclaimed ‘Tragedy Rocks,’ released on Free Two One.

It’s a strange world they inhabit, similar to that of the Pixies with the surrealism of the Flaming Lips. Davey MacManus has the vocal stylings of Conor Oberst and is accompanied by Arcade Fire like instrumentation.

Not a cheery start with an ethereal female voice expounding, ‘nobody actually knows what happens after the last gasp.’ The album is punctuated throughout with such whimsy. ‘All Conquering’ is pure weird America. ‘Our love is blown to smithereens, the future bleeds, broken dreams, the agony and ecstasy, the in between, no man’s land,’ expounds MacManus. ‘The 48a Waiting Steps’ tells of a loser and a freak with two left feet. It does it beautifully though with strings and racing synth beats.

The two best tracks for me are ‘Raining Planets,’ and
‘Bombay Sapphire Coma.’ The latter starts like Grandaddy’s
‘AM 180.’ While the sentiments ‘I want to be with my woman in a sensimilia haze. I want to be with my mermaid trapped under the waves,’ are expressed. A choir provide backing singing ‘it’s a beautiful day to die’ in a Polyphonic Spree stylie.

On ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes On Me,’ the ubiquitous rambling intro woman is back telling us of herculean desires to fill our bodies with anything which helps us forget. ‘It’s all downhill once you learn how kids are made,’ apparently.

Disconcertingly all I can think of when I listen to ‘Loop A Loop’ is ‘If I Could Talk To The Animals’ from Doctor Doolittle. It’s a gentle key driven ditty with a similar melody. ‘Light brigade’ features more of their trademark quaky rich vocals set against a swirling miasma of intricately threaded string and brass.

‘Several Thousand Years Of Talking Nonsense’ starts off with Pixies riffs and is then festooned with tinkly keys as he randomly lists things to be thankful for. ‘For the one woman in a thousand who’s got a thing about guys with missing front teeth, I thank my lucky stars.’

‘Requiem Aeternum,’ employs Amy May from Paris Motel on backing vocals. The closer ‘Weird’ couldn’t be more aptly named talking as it does of pterodactyls taking on the helicopter gunship and Rapunzel above me receiving chemotherapy. You get the picture!

There seem to be two strains of indie these days, the kitchen sink camp and surreal Midwestern college rockers. The Crimea are firmly in the latter camp. Elements of Midlake’s instrumentation are mixed with the catchy pop of Modest Mouse. Their twisted subject matter and dark piano and guitar lines could feed the soundtrack to a quirky American movie, Miramax take note!

Review by Mandy Williams for Subba Cultcha, May 2007.

The Crimea – SECRETS OF THE WITCHING HOUR – 11 Trk CD – Free Download
Davey MacManus and co are back as an unsigned outfit, but their songs still ring with an edgy quality that somehow sounds even bigger than on “Tragedy Rocks”. From widescreen guitars to their engagingly frivolous pop there’s a dark streak through their compact melodies. Best of all you can buy this as a fully packaged CD or download the whole album for free – I suggest you do both. The band play Friends Of Mine at Joshua Brooks on the 9th June.


Review by JA for Manchester Music, 04/06/07.

The Crimea: Get the new CD free courtesy Morning Paper (sorta)

CrimeaUK rockers The Crimea spit into the world with last year’s Tragedy Rocks, a disk of catchy tunes, with morbidly dark humor. The highlight tune, Girl Just Died, perfectly exemplified their unique blend of black comedy and hook-filled rock. The new disk, Secrets of the Witching Hour, picks up where they left off. Lead singer/songwriter Davey Macmanus’ voice goes more for the melody this time, and its a throaty, familiar voice straining for notes and emotions at time, firmly locked in at others. More strings and things this time around, with many songs verging on psychedelic. But why should I tell you about? Decide for yourself. They’re giving the dang thing away FOR FREE!! That’s right, just stop by the website and download it and tell us what you think yourself. How can you go wrong? Free tunes, legally. Download it now!

Article from Morning Paper, 29/05/07.

The Crimea

Acclaimed London-band that first emerged into the limelight with their sterling single Lottery Winners On Acid, The Crimea head to the Reading Fez on Wednesday 30 May as part of their UK tour.

30.05.07 | Fez Club | Gun Street | Reading | 7.30pm | £6.50 | This is an age 18+ event

The Crimea

Acclaimed London based band The Crimea have announced bold new plans to release their hugely anticipated second album, Secrets Of The Witching Hour as a free download from their own website on May 12 2007.

For those that want the real thing in a real case it’s available from shops as well!

Anyone listening to Colin Murray may have heard some of it already – he’s been playing a track a week since Valentines Day.

Recorded in East London, Norfolk and Latvia, Secrets Of The Witching Hour is an album as broad in geographic scope as it is sweeping melodies.

Produced and mixed by the band themselves and ably assisted by Richard Jackson (The Automatic), Dave Allen (The Cure) and Greg Haver (Manic Street Preachers), the album is comprised of eleven intensely lush and lovingly crafted songs.

Regina Spektor and Amy May (Paris Motel) also lend their considerable prowess and musical beauty to the record .

A band with a strong die-hard following, they take in Reading Fez on their forthcoming UK tour.

Preview from BBC Berkshire, 26/04/07.


31st May 2007
Supported by: UNDERCUT

The venue is far from packed but thankfully people have bothered to get off their asses and turn up to sample what The Crimea have to offer. As I arrive support band Undercut are just finishing up what seems to have been a nice tight rock anthem infused set. They look truly horrendous on the whole but sound rather fine. The gathered clap with appreciation before settling in for the wait for the main attraction.

The Crimea take to the stage and my eyes are instantly drawn to the actions of lead singer Davey Macmanus who seems possessed by the spirit of Norman Wisdom with staccato movements that echo the great legend of British comedy. For those not in the know Wisdom could also carry a tune and thankfully so can Mr Macmanus, in fact he is in possession of a rather splendid voice. The band play a fascinatingly intriguing combination of 60’s esque psych-out, blissed-up pop, combined with heavier more rocking riffs that provide a nice contrast. At certain points in the evening Macmanus is joined on vocals by bassist Joe Udwin and with a rather ingenious built in height differential there is an amazing slopping effect from the very tall Udwin through to the elfin lead guitarist Andy Norton on the far right of the stage.

They play knock out renditions of ‘Loop a Loop’, ‘Light Brigade’ and ‘Weird’ but the highlight of the evening is reserved for the encore. After causing certain revellers to break out into ball room dancing (including two huge lads together) the band come back on stage to a truly superb round of applause by the crowd. Then they play a cover of the Serge Gainsbourg classic Je t’aime… moi non plu’ which I have to say was a sublime moment that took me aback by how much I loved it. Macmanus’ voice more than did justice to the track and it just soared away into the balmy spring evening.

New album ‘Secrets of the Witching Hour’ is available for FREE download as I type this, the question is why are you not downloading it now instead of still reading this. The crimea are worth everybody’s time to say the least as they bring some much needed diversity back to a UK music scene that has become saturated by sameness. To download the album click here [link]

For more information you can visit: http://THECRIMEA.NET

Review by Aled Jones for Glasswerk, 01/06/07.

Modest Mouse with support from The Crimea @ Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton, 27/5/07

Opening band The Crimea lifted their game for tonight’s platform, a packed out Wulfrun Hall of music lovers, and moreover music seekers. To be frank anyone present must have been looking for ‘new’ music to find Modest Mouse who are still relatively unknown in the UK despite their US success over the last decade. From the offset The Crimea owned the stage with their exuberance, especially guitarist Andy Norton who seemed in his own world. Frontman Davey Macmanus looked like he was being shot in the gut each time he played a note on his guitar, his body jerking and with intensifying facial expressions. With this, the band commanded the attention of the Wulfrun crowd. The Wilfrin boasts an impressive sound system, which The Crimea seemed to make the most of, delivering a powerful sound. Included in the bands set were tracks off their latest album ‘Secrets of the Witching Hour’ with tracks, ‘Thank your luck stars’, ‘Basic Instinct’ and ‘Not Easy to be weird’, all of which had a enigmatic feel to them.

Review by Nadia for Fat Amp Music, June 2007.

Added to the Gigs, Releases, Reviews, The Crimea category/s. Follow responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Album and Gig Reviews”

  1. Rusty says:

    See that free download link at the top? Why does it say “Free Downlaod”?? :-)

  2. Denyer says:

    Homage to the band’s spelling?

Leave a Reply