If you were lucky enough to see Wolf Alice or Slaves last year, you may already be familiar with Crows but you’d be forgiven for never having heard of them. It’s early days for the fledgling post-punk quartet but since landing a succession of cushy support slots throughout 2015, Crows have gone from strength to strength, their live shows quickly earning the band a reputation as one of the most energetic and exciting emerging British talents. Now, coming off the back of their first headline tour, the North London-based foursome have unleashed a monster of an EP.
Cold Comfort is the 4-track follow-up to debut EP Unwelcome Light and like its predecessor, it perfectly encapsulates a raw, visceral energy entirely representative of the band’s formidable live show. Musically, the songs hover somewhere between the bluesy psychedelia of The Black Angels and the aggressive noise-rock of Metz, but always with an ominous sonic backdrop of cavernous reverb and screeching feedback lurking in the gloom.
Opening track, “The Itch”, kicks off proceedings in suitably ferocious fashion; “you’re pushing me away”, howls frontman James Cox over a blistering, vaguely Eastern sounding guitar riff, with a sense of desperation and furious intensity as unsettling as it is cathartic. It’s a fiery note to begin on but the EP takes a more sombre turn on the slower, moodier “Ghost Tape #10”. Named after a recording used by the US Army in the Vietnam War as a method of psychological warfare, the track features a typically explosive chorus but sits back in the verses with Steve Goddard’s textural guitar work providing an eerie ambience that dovetails with some of Cox’s most haunting lyrics yet.
the songs hover between the bluesy psychedelia of The Black Angels and the aggressive noise-rock of Metz
Bassist Jith Amarasinghe and drummer Laurence Rushworth shine on “Moonstruck”, another murky number full of menace and discontent that exemplifies the darker, angrier attitude that Crows seem to be channelling this time around. “Before the Devil Comes Home”, however, rounds off the EP in a comparatively upbeat manner. Cox’s lyrics (this time taking on homophobia and religion) are as biting as ever but this is still a refreshing change of tone and certainly the warmest moment on Cold Comfort, perhaps less frightening than the rest of the record but no less fierce.
Cold Comfort isn’t as immediately catchy nor quite as cohesive as Unwelcome Light but to its credit, it doesn’t mean to be. While the band’s first EP was recorded more or less in a single take and was designed to flow as one continuous piece of music, this latest offering features a more careful production style suggestive of a heightened awareness of the craft of studio recording. Thankfully, this doesn’t come at the cost of authenticity. Cold Comfort still captures the essence of Crows’ live performances – blood, sweat, and all – but places greater emphasis on the sonic composition of the individual songs, relying instead on shared lyrical themes to tie it all together. The result of this is a more expansive sound, as well as a darker, more intense experience but Crows (as obscure as they may still be) aren’t known for their shiny, feel-good pop anthems. If this is anything to go by, Crows’ upcoming debut album will be a scorcher. This is a band to watch.