Review Summary: On Born To Ruin, Crazy Arm have found the perfect balance between a consistent sound, variety, aggression and melody.Born To Ruin
Darren Johns - Vocals, Guitars
Jon Dailey - Bass
Simon Marsh - Drums
Daniel Couling - Guitars, Vocals, Keys
The great thing about punk is it’s a genre that hasn’t been afraid to branch out. Bands such as Dropkick Murphys
, Against Me!
(to name three modern examples) have proven that it is possible to include a wide range of influences and sounds whilst still retaining a punk-based core. The central punk ethos of individuality and rejection of conformity is often the thing that links all corners of the genre together, and it’s something Crazy Arm have in excess.
Like so many bands Crazy Arm’s beliefs are left-leaning (“Crazy Arm advocate a lifestyle in opposition to capitalism, imperialist wars, religion, xenophobia, gender inequality and animal abuse”) and this is what forms the majority of the lyrics on the album. So far, so Rise Against
. But two things about the band’s politics immediately distinguish them from the rest, and they become clear as you flick through the lyric book. The first is the huge list of websites, including charities (Oxfam, Shelter) and many other political and social-welfare sites (Indymedia, NoBorders), that would be enough to make Anti-Flag
blush. By looking at this alone you can see how deeply these causes run through the band. The second unique feature is the band’s style lyrically; they sit somewhere between Rise Against
and Bad Religion
, impassioned yet never preachy. In fact the lyrics are so well constructed and intelligently written that on first glance you wouldn’t necessarily know they were political in nature.
So Crazy Arm has beliefs, but what about their sound and the album itself? The first of those is an interesting one, the band themselves describe it as “Fugazi with banjos, but without banjos” and I think that’s a fairly accurate description. Every song has its punk riffs and chords, but also contains a large amount of slide and folk-tinged guitar. The two styles complement each other well and the catchy guitar parts are some of the albums highlights. Because of the atypical nature of the guitars, the drums and bass are given more freedom than just relying on standard rhythms and really shine in parts. The only area of the band I feel could be improved are the vocals, which sound slightly weak in comparison to the power of someone like Greg Graffin or the rasp of Tim McIlrath.
As for the songs themselves, every single one is significantly different from the last, be it the Queen-esque opening of “Kith and Kingdom” or the best riff Anti-Flag never wrote on “Reassure Me”. The relatively long running time (49 minutes for 11 tracks) means the band have time to mix up the structure of the songs a bit, stopping the monotony of ‘verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus’. A few solos (“Still To Keep”, “Born To Ruin”) and acoustic sections (“Born To Ruin”, “Blind Summit”) are also sprinkled around for good measure and variety. For me the standout track is the simply brilliant “Still To Keep”: great lyrics, use of the duelling guitars, rumbling bass, powerful drums and a terrific sense of melody cement it as one of the tracks of 2009. The album closes in atmospheric fashion with “Christ In Concrete”, a track that contains both chilling acoustic sections and some of the heaviest riffing found on Born To Ruin
. The final minute of feedback run-off gives you time to contemplate what you have just heard: a debut album that is equally distinctive, gripping and outstanding.
On Born To Ruin
Crazy Arm have found the perfect balance between a consistent sound, variety, aggression and melody. To achieve this first time around is a remarkable feat, so much so it is hard to see how the band could improve on their current formula. Crazy Arm deserve to sit alongside the present crop of new British punk bands making it big.