The Crookes – Hold Fast LP
“WARNING! This album contains pop music and may produce a radical reaction in narrow minded people.” So read the bold letters on the fanzine penned by the Crookes for those who have pre-ordered their new album via Pledge Music. Although the caution may be somewhat tongue-in-cheek, it does offer insight into the bold approach the band have taken with the follow up to last year’s well received debut, ‘Chasing After Ghosts’.
In an age where ‘pop’ is often dismissed as a dirty word, the Crookes are taking a brave step in stating their attempts to restore a little integrity to the genre, and with a sound inspired by a broad range of influences – from Phil Spector era girl bands to Pulp via many well-leafed paperbacks – ‘Hold Fast’ also comes with a promise; “to make people dance and sing along.” Try arguing with those fundamentals.
Promise fulfilled. ‘Afterglow’ is a brash, infectious introduction to the album, boasting a chorus that would make even the most skyscraper laden cityscape appear minimalist. I defy you to still be sitting still by the second minute. New single ‘Maybe in the Dark’ is equally contagious, yet also shows the band master more than just memorable hooks with George sultrily telling ‘Babies’ inspired tales of a desperate longing to replicate former feelings for another (“…oh you’re the perfect second best.”).
Whilst ‘Stars’ ends up feeling rather unmemorable compared to the two tracks that precede it, ‘The Cooler King’ demonstrates both versatility and courage from the band; it’s a large slice of 50’s dance hall gaiety, complete with ‘whoop’s and whistles aplenty, rendering you unable to avoid cracking the largest of smiles and jigging around the room like a lunatic by the song’s end. Sandwiched between these two is ‘American Girls’, which commences in a stripped back fashion with a fragile vocal accompanied by a single guitar, before George’s voice is suddenly soaring over an excitable pop melody that wouldn’t feel out of place if mentioned in the same breath as the Crystals or the Ronettes. It is potentially the highlight of ‘Hold Fast’.
However, for all the wanting to make people dance, some of the album’s best moments come when the band are at their most tender. ‘Sal Paradise’, for example, is a captivating acoustic ballad that tugs on the heartstrings in a Hawley-esque manner, and the theme of longing is prominent on ‘Sofie’ and ‘Where Did Our Love Go?’, songs written for the moments where a weak smile attempts to defy tear-misted eyes, whilst album closer ‘The I Love You Bridge’ is for when you need something to help you dream when those eyes close.
Yes, it all sounds very over the top, but songs such as these remind you that the Crookes are romantics, their wordsmith Daniel Hopewell’s lyrics an antidote to the tiresome Turner-lite realists that have become a staple of our city’s music scene. Ultimately, ‘Hold Fast’ isn’t revolutionary, but by sticking to their principles of wanting to create a brilliant pop album, the Crookes have been able to reference some of the best ideas from the last fifty years to do just that, creating a distinguished record that also feels instantly familiar.
New scenes and fashions come and go, but there will always be a place for good pop music with integrity, which is exactly what ‘Hold Fast’ is – and yes, you will dance and you will sing along.
Words by Lewis Parker
'Hold Fast' is released on July 9th, however, you can pre-order the album along with any band exclusives via Pledge Music (link above).