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Crack Cloud’s new album Tough Baby is both a clarion call and a life-manual for the listener.
Unsurprisingly, Tough Baby is a record with purpose and resolve. Nothing is wasted. Sometimes the music feels deliberately compressed, the essences extracted and bottled into an overpowering cordial, as on ‘115 At Night’, which sounds like an ‘80s Van Halen track being squeezed into another shape. And it’s difficult to see how a track like ‘Virtuous Industry’ can hold itself together, such are the sonic hoops it jumps through. The sharp angles and hook- laden guitar lines that were once seen as a trademark sound are less in evidence. Last track ‘Crackin Up’ does nod back to earlier releases with a booming beat and guitars that snag, like wool on barbed wire. But maybe there’s another focus taking shape, one that was not fully realised on the band’s remarkable debut, Pain Olympics. Zach Choy: “We made that album with no expectation of making another.” Maybe that expectation lent Pain Olympics its febrile, combustible atmosphere.
But the world moves on, and Tough Baby is moving with it. The new record reflects Choy’s point that “we are always maturing emotionally with our experiences, and so how we understand and express them evolves over our lifetime.” There is a sleekness here: cinematic dreamer music that takes in the street romanticisms and seedy cruises of classic alternative pop.
Indeed, the record could be a brilliant C21st riposte to the likes of The Pogues, the Blockheads, Roxy Music or Armand Schaubroeck. ‘The Politician’ could be a search party sent out to find The Bogus Man after 50 years.