Crazy Arm “Union City Breath”

Crazy Arm “Union City Breath” (Xtra Mile Records) 2011 
By Rich Cocksedge (SugarBuzz UK)

Crazy Arm return with their second long player, two years after they blazed a trail with their debut, “Born To Ruin”.  Given how good that debut was it was always going to be interesting to see if the new, expanded Crazy Arm (Victoria Butterfield on vocals and Patrick James Pearson on keyboards and violin) could rise to the challenge of emulating their earlier work.

Needless to say they manage to not only equal, but in many senses surpass “Born To Ruin”, with “Union City Breath”, an album containing thirteen tracks which seems to possess a much better sense of who and what the band are all about.  With the “roots-punk” tag firmly attached to Crazy Arm, they display their fondness not only for punk rock in tracks like “Bandalito” but also dip their toes into territory usually occupied by bands like Murder By Death with the melancholic “Charnel House Blues”.  With nods to country and folk music throughout, this is a much more rounded effort although fans of the band will be pleased to hear the big guitars, crashing drums and pounding bass as Crazy Arm still have it in them to create a big, rock sound.  The arrangements are lusher and the sound is more varied across the album, all of which comes together to produce a set of songs that flow majestically from start to finish.

The targets of Darren Johns’ lyrics seem to be the clearly identified as right wing/fascism with both the British National Party and the English Defence League, two of the fascist organisations currently operating within the UK, at the end of his vitriol.  However, his venom doesn’t stop there as corporate greed and the unfair allocation of resources i.e. money, is pushed to the fore, in “Tribes” and (hopefully) this is something many will agree with.

The surprise track for me is “Little Boats” which is based around the idea of those people who are there around you to help in times of trouble, and also through the good times.  As the liner notes mention there is an element of nostalgia to this track which really cuts to the core for me anyway.  I would say that this is the Crazy Arm song which is closer to being a mainstream ‘hit’ than all others apart from, maybe, the epic “Tribes” which was the first single taken off the album.

So, Crazy Arm’s “Union City Breath” has cemented its place at the top of the pile for 2011 releases.  They’re also a live band worth watching as somehow they have the ability to improve from show to show and believe me they were not a shabby live band to start off with.  Their recent album release show, was for me, the best I’ve seen them play and with a big crowd in attendance they were able to please all with songs old and new plus an encore featuring a Black Flag cover (with guest vocalist Josh Erratt) and much crowd participation.

For those not based in the UK/Europe, your best bet in seeking this album out is probably via the download version, and I assure you that this will not be money wasted.