The Welsh singer's last outing 'Mug Museum' was a brilliant but heavy offering, things lighten up on 'Crab Day' which riffs on late-seventies post-punk and beyond.
Up to now, the 15th day of April has generally represented one of two things: Easter Sunday or, over in the United States, Tax Day. But wait! Instead of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ or heralding the personal tax return deadline for financially prudent Americans, 15th April 2016 is actually Crab Day – the release date for Cate Le Bon’s fourth LP. Hooray! It’s the sort of thing bank holidays were invented for. “We should definitely set up that conference call for tomorrow,” says the boss. “Ah,” you say. “Actually we can’t. It’s Crab Day – remember?”
Le Bon herself jokes cryptically in the album’s press release: “Crab Day is an old holiday. Crab Day is a new holiday. Crab Day isn’t a holiday at all.” After all, this is the same Welsh singer-songwriter who called her last record ‘Mug Museum’, had the promo video for this one shot by a guy called Phil Collins and chose her stage name on a whim after seeing Simon Le Bon on TV at the Brit Awards. Oh and she’s also helpfully posing as a crab on the cover of ‘Crab Day’ as well.
On first listen, the LP is possessed of the very sense of fun and playfulness that might be expected. “Swim across to meet me on crab day,” Le Bon implores on the opening title track. “Who am I to judge you on crab day?” Three songs in, new single ‘Wonderful’ finds the 33-year-old singing about wanting to be a “motion picture film” or perhaps a “ten-pin ball” instead.
Back on ‘Mug Museum’, Le Bon found herself preoccupied with some pretty heavy stuff (the passing of her grandmother and its impact on everybody around her). By comparison, then, ‘Crab Day’ can sound like a proverbial day at the beach – or perhaps the rock pools. Even some of the instrumentation here seems more light-hearted: jaunty xylophone and saxophone melodies abound.
Fortunately, any sense of cloying levity is invariably punctured by a jittery rhythm section that recalls the nervousness of early Talking Heads – all staccato drum beats and tightly-coiled bass lines – overlaid with unpredictable, razor-sharp stabs of guitar. It’s quite a leap from the scuzzy garage of the superb ‘Hermits on Holiday’ – the LP Le Bon jointly released with Tim Presley last year – and even better for it, too.
In fact, despite that recent collaboration with Presley, ‘Crab Day’ actually pivots Le Bon well away from the sound of the 60s – hitherto her broad frame of reference – towards exciting new territory, riffing on late-70s post-punk and beyond. If that doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t have to. It’s Crab Day – remember?