The 1980s were a wild time, to say the least. Teenagers were rebelling – as per usual – and creating their own kind of lifestyle, diverting the general expectations of growing up and maturing that had dominated previous decades. Fashion was outrageous, attitudes were eccentric and controversial, and all of this was reflected in the music. Punk emerged from the underground and, in a symbiotic relationship with the youth, the face of music was forever scarred for the better. Bands like Sex Pistols and the Ramones exploded onto the scene expressing anarchy and distrust in the establishment, loudly displaying their political agenda and providing a voice for like-minded young people. Throughout the decade, punk influenced countless subgenres and subcultures, encouraging political freedom and rebirth of the most riotous kind, while also merging with others to create completely unexpected, but lyrically brilliant, hybrid genres.
This month’s Indie Idol embodies the spirit of punk while exhibiting its versatility within other genres by displaying elements of anti-folk – a musical movement established in the 1980’s to “mock the perceived seriousness” of the decade’s popular music, serving as a protest through clever lyricism. Crywank, a band spontaneously conceived by Jay Clayton in Manchester in 2009 upon receiving their first guitar, expresses a more personal kind of anarchy, announcing displeasure with mundane realism we have all probably felt from time to time, as well as dealing with more serious issues like mental health. I Am Shit from the band’s 2013 Tomorrow is Nearly Yesterday and Everyday is Stupid album, for instance, serves as a criticism of one’s self, overthinking everything you have said or done, and being stuck in a loop of self-doubt and inadequacy. The lyrics are hard-hitting and emotional, with a characteristic DIY-nature that adds to the charm and meaning of the song.
Arguably, Crywank takes a more comedic stance in some of their productions, helping to lighten the typically downbeat mood of their work while fitting to the anti-folk genre, still providing that dramatic social commentary the band and sub-punk genres are known for. Songs like An Academics Lament on Barbie, which comments on the irony surrounding the suggestion that Barbie is a feminist icon for young girls, having had over a hundred different jobs, many in typically male industries, while also being subject to strict and traditional female beauty standards that fail to represent the vast majority of women. Or Tin Foil Hat Crew at the Student House, which discusses constantly being monitored by companies online and other politics while also featuring the highly intellectual lyric, “Slap my thigh call me messy sweaty petty silly sausage,” from the duo’s 2017 Egg on Face. Foot in Mouth. Wriggling Wriggling Wriggling. album, for example. Both of these songs also demonstrate Crywank’s musical diversity by embracing a sound vaguely similar to that of Parklife by Blur, with more melodic speech rather than general singing, while still harking back to their punk-inspired roots – which are especially evident in the final few lyrics of Tin Foil Hat…, “Don’t Be Evil, Ooglie-booglie-googlie-booglie.”
(Check out Story of the Lizard and the Sock for another dark comedy-esque song)
The group’s most recent and final album, Fist Me ‘Til Your Hand Comes out My Mouth, a name that most definitely reflects the outrageous and uncensored nature of the 1980’s punk movement, features an eight-part story about friendship and its effects on the band. And, as the title I Love You but I’ve Chosen Me… suggests, the importance of loving oneself before attempting to love someone else. The album is, overall, fairly different from Crywank’s previous seven albums due to a larger focus on instrumentalism, such as in The Best, poetry, similar to Jamie T’s use of Sir John Betjeman’s The Cockney Amorist poem in his debut single Sheila, and a more upbeat sound – the existentialist lyrics are still going strong, though.
The band seems to have steered clear of music videos in the traditional sense, preferring to upload live versions or random rehearsal sessions onto their Youtube channel. However, the few music videos that have been created for their most recent album all exude a sense of incomplete chaoticism that perfectly reflects the sentiment of their whole musical catalogue. The videos tend to be stylised in a low budget arts-and-crafts-type manner using watercolour (Egg and Spoon) and torn paper (Ego is a Phoenix) to depict the narrative while making the meanings of the songs feel more tangible to the audience and, once again, hinting at the homemade elements of punk style. Album art for the band is definitely something to behold, ranging from a simple photo of a shelf adorned with wooden cat sculptures to a fluorescent drawing of a two-headed monster with the iconic World War II “Kilroy was Here” doodle looming above. However, I feel as if the variation in album art reflects the large range of topics and emotions discussed and felt through the band’s work and does show progression in the bands freedom of expression over time.
Unfortunately for all who love them, Crywank’s musical career is coming to a voluntary end after their next North American tour, which has been postponed to 2022. However, their music and merchandise will continue to be available on dogknightsproductions.com until it is all sold out. In the meantime, check out Memento Mori and Hikikomori, my two favourites by the band.