For some outfits, the perception of productivity is paramount to their success, the ability to appear as if they are on a creative hot streak and can do no wrong. As is all too often the case, however, this overconfidence can in fact paper over the reality, that a lot of the time their material just doesn’t hold up to much.
Thankfully, Leeds quintet Cruel World have headed in the opposite direction with their debut self-titled EP, released a few weeks ago, back in October. They first came to attention back in the spring of 2018, with their fantastic debut single ‘Boxer’ (oh, and just look who was first to spot their talents), which earned them much acclaim, as well as support from the likes of BBC 6 Music. They had a busy summer, supporting fellow Leeds rockers Menace Beach, as well as featuring on the line-up for the likes of Bluedot Festival and Kendal Calling. Since then, they spent the best part of a year honing their sound, initially recording material for this EP last October straight to tape at their drummer Lee Smith’s acclaimed Greenmount Studio.
The delayed release is put down to commitments including kids, wives, jobs and dogs (heck, I can certainly attest to that last one!). The wait however, I’m happy to report, has been well worth it. The EP has a fantastically rich sound, at once creatively diverse and adventurous whilst at the same time pop-y and accessible. Latest single ‘Take The Reigns‘ launches the EP, and starts out on a chilled mid-tempo groove. Harry Ridgway impresses with a clear, mellow timbre to his voice, akin to Orlando Weeks of The Maccabees, before fellow co-vocalist James Smith emerges and rounds the palette out with his contrasting chalky baritone. The track fleshes out towards the end for a lengthy outro, with a wonderful flourish of electronics that really lifts their music to another level.
Elsewhere on tracks like ‘Stranger‘ and ‘World of Evil,’ they tap into a ’90s vibe that brings to mind Eels, as well as Blur’s more esoteric efforts. Yet they give the material a contemporary lift that feels entirely of their own making. There’s an effortless feel to these songs, that of a band who have spent much time playing together, locking into a particular groove where each member finds their own space within the music. They’ve committed themselves to their craftsmanship, and come up with something really special as a result.
The aforementioned single ‘Boxer‘ makes an appearance – it’s a tight, concise track, with echoes of The National and The Strokes. It’s a very instantaneous number, which feels like it could fit in snugly on one of The Shins’ finer albums. The EP closes with the beautiful piano-led, ‘Fought A War.’ It’s a real “lighters in the air” number, again with electronic augmentations that really lend the track added depth, as well as some woozy Beatles-style backing vocals that build the track towards a gloriously fuzzy guitar solo finale.
Top marks then, for this offering from the Leeds troupe, testament to the old adage that slow and steady wins the race. I’d be more than content to wait as long as necessary for them to conjure up music as mesmerising as this fantastic EP. Keep your eyes peeled as well for some live shows from the band, which are set to be announced in the coming months.
The Cruel World EP is out now – available to stream below or purchase here.