22 April 2012

Crywank - narcissist on the verge of a nervous breakdown (2012)

Listening to Crywank, aka James Clayton who is now residing in Manchester, is at first a story of pros and cons.

There is the very basic nature of the song, straight vocals, a rough acoustic guitar and nothing else, recorded mostly as first takes and thrown away on his blog as a free download without self propotion or so few. 

There is a very self-centered style of approach, even if it can be tagged as anti-folk, acoustic emo, folk-punk, indie, lo-fi or even sadcore...

The first album, "James is going to die soon" (2010), was about the break-up of a relationship and this new one is more diffuse in its intentions but delivers the same type of intimate melancholy, but with the benefit of hindsight.

If you enjoyed the first steps of Bright Eyes, Palace, Jen Wood or Sentridoh, and have given some attention to the long lost hometaping scene of the nineties, soon enough some of his songs might become strangely seductive while other will keep annoying you (but that's the rule of the game). 

I particularly dislike when his vocals turn into almost screams and when the acoustic guitar becomes handled too roughly but if it was often the case on his first album, it's in a salutary manner, much more diffuse on his new one.

Checking his influences list, I've been happy to discover the names of Kickball, S or Talons', and listening to the second track of this new album, "Now I'm Sad (Boo Hoo)",  I'm quasi sure he is also a fan of Trouble Books. 

To be honest it is also this track which convinced me to explore this new album and not discard it quickly like I did two years before with his debut. It is also a beautiful declaration of intentions, with well written lyrics. It makes me think of Trouble Books about how he sings on this song, keeping a reflexive distance with a small perfume of both irony and sincerity. 

The poignancy of "Thomas Saunders Lloyd Weber" and the way he expresses it with a muted rage keeps me attentive and convinced. Usually I'm kind of fed up with such strict folk songwriting, but concerning Crywank, there is content, there are nuances and a crucial lucidity, on some of the bleakest aspects of social life, and "Care Not For Your Clubnights" is a true great song which will make you think and give you ironically a certain bitter comfort.

I don't like all the song and he has got a margin of progress mostly musically - a bare acoustic guitar is just a bare acoustic guitar -, but speaking of the lyrical and vocal content, everything is there and is getting just more and more value by progressive refinement. 

"The Only Way I Could Save Myself Now Is If I Start Firebombing" is uneasy and the relative quietness and restraint of his vocals just give to the lyrics more importance and more tension. Truly, the sadcore tag is not usurped here.

It seems that this album represent a big step forward concerning the refinement of his vocal melodies and the translation of his sensitivity. It looks like someone growing fast, just in front of you as you are listening, as on "It's OK, I Wouldn't Remember Me Either", still balancing between what he knows and what he tries and discovers. Even more promising is the melancholic warmth of "Deep Down I'm Really Kirk Van Houten". 

"I crave love, I crave attention, and I hate myself for this. I’m embarrassed by my depression, when I put things in perspective" are the last lyrics of the album on "You Couldn't Teach Me Integrity"
and it resumes perfectly why this album is so interesting and much more subtle than his straightforward debut.  

Strongly recommended, because it this album is still imperfect, it is also intense, sincere and with an unexpected depth and the process of listening to it and spending hours along will in the end make you feel better. 


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