“Only takes one black cloud to ruin a bright day/ I was the black cloud, she was the bright day” rasps Davey MacManus on ‘Opposite Ends’. Lyrically Tragedy Rocks is as uplifting as a mouse infested bedsit lit by a naked bulb. But for all his obsession with the seamier end of melancholy, this is an album stuffed with effortlessly hummable hooks and choruses.
At times fuzzy, loose and lo-fi, at others bombastic and grandiose, The Crimea have an instinct for the appropriate. Whether it’s the Joy Zipper like slacker lollop of ‘Baby Boom’ or the hushed bank of harmonies on ‘Gazillions of Minature Violins’ – which sound like Flaming Lips marinated in gin – the arrangements never swamp the songs. And McManus’ voice, quavering, stretching and choking its way around the tunes, makes sure it always sounds very human.
Like the Flaming Lips too, the songs feel simultaneously familiar and peculiar. Each intro sounds like something you haven’t heard for ages and can’t quite place. But then the often humourously disquieting lyrics appear and undercut the pop classicism (“sometimes I think you could be more than just a punch bag with lipstick on” for example). Occasionally things veer off course into pastiche overload, like the faux Nick Cave gothery in the verses of ‘Someone’s Crying’, but even that redeems itself musically in the chorus.
There are enough ideas here for two albums but instead it’s boiled down into one restlessly economic one. Suitably for a band named after the site of a famous conflict, the album is a battle between opposing forces – bleakness and humour, beauty and ugliness, pure pop and musical interest. Sometimes that works, sometimes it implodes, but it never stays still.
8Julian Ridgway's Score