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Album Review: Crazy Arm - Union City Breath

Crazy Arm’s first full length, 2009 released ‘Born To Ruin’, was a breath of fresh air in the UK punk scene, far away from the multitude of copy-cat pop-punk albums that populate the modern marketplace. The unique blend of actively engaged punk rock and subtle textures of country and folk made for an exciting new brand of British talent. Hints of some of the finest American punk could be found amidst the Plymouth-based tinge of their positively British identity. 2011 sees the release of their follow-up ‘Union City Breath’, as they progress from their original sound into something new.

Those who enjoyed ‘Born To Ruin’, undoubtedly did so partly due to the distinctive sound and feel they managed to bring to their songs: an obvious influence of folk tradition seamlessly supported the pounding surface of their music. With this in mind, ‘Union City Breath’ sees the band make a clearer division between the folk elements of their music and their punk side, although some of the new tracks still bare signs of the more subversive songwriting from their previous album.

The album kicks off with two superb performances of gritty punk ‘Of The Tarantulas’ and ‘Bandalito’, the former offering groovy interplay between the two guitars over the punk template while the latter is an all-out belter that barely catches its breath. Lead single ‘Tribes’ works as a powerful protest song that goes from stripped-down to power-chorus to a fine gospel section in what is one of the strongest tracks on the album.

One of the most significant changes is the use of Victoria Butterfield’s vocals to support Darren Johns’ gruff tones as in the politically-charged ‘The Right Wing Never Sleeps’, but they are put to best use during the band’s ventures into folk territory. ‘Little Boats’ finds itself particularly lifted by the contrasting textures of their harmonies, as they do on the country-tinged ‘Song Of Choice’.

Crazy Arm may have somewhat changed the potion but it is still more than potent, if not more so than before. The relevance of their political stance is rendered potent through the quality of their lyrics and the excellent musicianship at play. ‘Union City Breath’ is an authentic piece of folk-punk that this reviewer would have as his album of choice to represent Britain on the punk scene.


James Berclaz-Lewis

Alter The Press!