It’s been hard to avoid the resurgence of post-punk lately, not just in the near-constant rollout of new bands taking hold of the sound, but in the way that, in the wake of Idles’ Joy As An Act Of Resistance becoming the smash hit that it was, it’s become a genre spearheaded by new life and a new attitude that’s far more in tune with the frustrations of modern life. It’s why a band like Fontaines D.C. has been given such an enormous platform that’ll likely see them become one of 2019’s breakout bands, but the find the act touted the hardest by those at the front of the movement, one only has to look at Crows, the latest signees to Idles frontman Joe Talbot’s Balley Records who’ve been paraded around alongside that fact almost as an invitation for bigger things. But among all the emerging post-punks of the last few months, Crows’ output has easily been the least consistent, pitting their post-punk against touches of shoegaze but feel noticeably unbalanced when doing so, something that’s felt rather disorienting considering the clear push behind them. It leaves Silver Tongues coming in a strange position, an album that clear has the means of success behind it, but has yet to display anything that could really merit that on face value.
And compared to Fontaines D.C. who made at least some of their appeal clear right out of the gate, Silver Tongues continues to portray Crows as largely the outliers in terms of bands in this scene who’ve had that impact. It definitely feels like the most traditional permutation of post-punk that’s been birthed from it, augmented by touches of shoegaze and noise-rock to keep them as more of a niche prospect, but that seems to be where they falter the most. On the whole, Silver Tongues’ portrayal of this genre just doesn’t seem as interesting as so many of Crows’ peers have made it, and while their command of a darker, more brooding atmosphere like on the pounding chug of Hang Me High has a fair bit to get swept up in, it factors in to how one-paced tracks like Empyrean and Chain Of Being can come across as, not helped by a monotone vocal performance from James Cox which only makes it drag even further. At least it’s used right in the eight-minute knell of First Light // False Face as an establishment that Crows can veer into more experimental, off-kilter territory rather than ploughing the post-punk furrows for everything that they’re worth, but it’d be nice if that was shown off a bit more rather than left as a secondary option.
It’s pretty telling that these moments of deviation are where Silver Tongues shines the most, even if it’s through simple pickups in speed and tone like the headlong punk rush of Demeanour or the groove-driven, almost gothic Wednesday’s Child. It’s here where the darker production and ominous lyrics have a lot more mileage, playing to what are very much genre norms, but doing so in a way that twists them into directions that aren’t necessarily unrecognisable, but feel a lot more interesting at a time when post-punk is primarily being used as an underscoring feature. Of course, that brings up the argument about whether these moves are all that exciting; after all, Crows’ status as a – for lack of a better term – purer post-punk band should rightly give them an immediate leg up when there are currently fewer of them around, and that is arguably the case here. The issue, though, is that, for all of their efforts, Crows just can’t hit that same watermark of quality when sticking to their own sound, and having that sense of cross-breeding is what ultimately elevates Silver Tongues to something that’s considerably stronger.
That’s pretty fortunate too, as this is already an album that provides very little to talk about, and at least when Crows strive for some better moments, a handful of those few talking points can be praise. Otherwise, this would feel like a much bleaker, blanker listen than it really should, chugging by on tones that don’t have much in the way of fire or dynamic without the boost that basically feels like a necessity. It definitely bumps Silver Tongues up to a decent listen overall, but with as precarious as that is, it would be wise to give Crows a bit more time before they can pushed as the genre’s next big thing.
For fans of: Girl Band, The Murder Capital, Lice
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Silver Tongues’ by Crows is released on 22nd March on Balley Records.