And so the fourth full-length Cranes album pops onto the scene as if by magic; like a new found friend you just find sitting unannounced in your front room some day.
Surely, no other band has been so constantly lauded, yet so criminally under-promoted as the Cranes. With each successive release I have been telling people that "this is the one, this is where the masses finally catch on". Well, if time has taught me anything, it's never expect too much for the bands you love...
But the fact is that Population Four is the Cranes' most complete album to date, and - perhaps because of this - it is also their most accesible. Although they're still as original (or 'quirky' as Melody Maker would say) as the day they were conceived, on tracks like 'Brazil' and 'Can't Get Free' there's a heady lashing of pop-sensibility which is highly infectious yet confidently understated. And the combinations of crisp acoustic guitars and vicious fuzz have never worked better than on the likes of 'On Top Of The World' and the bombastic 'Fourteen' - with Alison vamping up her vocal performances in a way Wendy James never came close to (just check out 'Let Go' and tell me I'm wrong!) But, for the first time, Alison is letting the boys have a go too - Jim Shaw's intimate, almost whispering, performance on 'Stalk' at least keeping things in the family.
1997 could be a big year for Cranes; but then every year since 1991 has promised to be big, and four albums, two mini-albums and countless singles down the road, we're still waiting. But then who cares? I love them, and it's kind of nice to keep some things to yourself. The opening track, 'Tangled Up', sums it all up: "Oh no, not again. Did I really fuck it up this time?" Well, yes - but then that's what makes the Cranes so special.
A beautifully fucked-up album. (PB)