Devon roots-punk band Crazy Arm are the ultimate musicians for those who hate conforming to a label for a preferred type of music. Their debut album, ‘Born to Ruin’ was highly praised round the board for its unique combination of such diverse influences of 60’s folk/country to hard punk, laced with politically heavy lyrics. It’s always hard to find a band that can appeal to fans of both Show of Hands and Alexisonfire, but even harder for said band to keep up the novelty. Never the less, sophomore album Union City Breath succeeds by not mixing things up too much, just with straight up improvement.
Opening statement ‘Of the Tarantulas’ boasts a continuous and catchy guitar rhythm, reminiscent of classic rock sounds such as Iron Maiden, whilst the overlaid vocals are what really get the blood pumping. The second song ‘Bandalito’ brings in the punk with noisy, hard sounding guitar with an unruly song structure.
First single of the album ‘Tribes’ lays its cards straight on the table, with opening lyrics “I don’t want to live in a fucked up world, where morality is lost to the laws of hate”. The simply pro-community vibe is kept at the forefront plus it really highlights the rather distinctive vocals of Darren Johns, who utilizes the harshness of a pirate, but with a delicate touch such to sway all those who would normally shun from such a use of one’s voice.
‘The Right Wing Never Sleeps’, aside from being the heavy written piece, singling out the delusional, that you’d expect from such a title, is the first to really hit home the grace of backing vocalist Victoria Butterfield, the combination of her pipes with Darren’s invoking the ‘phony-gospel’ aura that gives the song that extra dose of irony. ‘The Endless Carriage’ meanwhile does well in nodding its hat to the band’s love of Bruce Springsteen, getting real atmospheric around the 3 minute mark.
‘Song of Choice’ is my pick of the litter; it’s got the style of any good roots-folk ballad, but the song writing is exquisite. The first two minutes build up the idea of halting the build up of evil, “If you leave them to grow high they may silence your voice, and in December you may pay with your blood,” taking any sign of hatred as a warning as oppression, and by the time the first utterance of ‘facism’ reaches your ear you’ve understood the message. For a near literal use of the word ‘roots’ to describe the spread of something so modern as the BNP, for an atheist to put aside his qualms to defend the Muslims and Sikhs to stop bigotry feels so unheard of in such music, but all the more necessary.
Until the end the album is a good listen, but it’s easily the skilful acoustic track ‘Southaway Drive’ that’s best worth your listen; well composed and impossible to sit still till its end. If I had to pick one track to be Crazy Arm’s poster effort it would easily be ‘City & Western’, the obtuse mix of genres is best demonstrated here, as is the energy seen in their live sets. The last two numbers do well to make the album work back to front, ending with a progressive collective, after one last acoustic homage, respectively.
Unlike much else out there, Union City Breath is nearly always going to impress. It doesn’t change the game up from its predecessor other than refinement, delicacy and hammering in the point. Speaking of the latter, I’d gladly do the same in assuring you this is the band to watch at the moment.
Words > Graham Ashton
check out the video for Tribes right here: