19th July | Exchange
Photos: Albert Testani
Punk is not dead – words often uttered, though regularly with little substance. Living in Bristol, we’re lucky enough to experience facets of the punk movement through varying degrees of its evolution across multiple fields of the artistic experience. It’s only in hallowed rooms and dark corners that you’re privy to the realisation of the aforementioned mantra. One such occasion of this vital experience happened to take place at Exchange when we welcomed Manchester’s masters of misery, Crywank to bathe us in their sorrow.
Opening the night falls to the hands of a Bristol band still scoping its boundaries and in its infancy. Nervous Rex show signs of brilliance in their concept and confidence, though fall short in terms of execution. This is entirely forgivable, however, when learning that their members only recently learned their instruments through a community-driven project to incubate creativity in the younger members of our society. Their twee indie-folk stylings prove impossible not to provoke a smile and their topical and political choice of subject matter deserves attention and support.
Main support comes in the form of one of the most endearing, personal and powerful punk bands I’ve ever had the privilege to catch. The Menstrual Cramps exude the retro punk spirit to such a degree that I feel I’m transported straight back to the birth of the genre. Important social issues tackled, check, attitude and personality brilliantly displayed with no regard for your sensibilities, check, simplistic musicality leaving space for great emotional impact check. Their snarling, witty and powerful tracks produce such acidity and vitality that you’ll walk away with grand intentions of forming your own outfit a-la that infamous Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall gig that you’re probably sick of hearing about.
Speaking of Manchester, Crywank surely do their city proud. Never an act to shy away from self-deprecation, James Clayton proudly boasts that his modus operandi essentially boils down to “me singing about being sad”, and while that’s certainly true, it’s a lot more fun than you’d initially imagine. Scatty acoustic jitters, bound from visceral guitar lines, provide a bed for powerful vocals that land with an importance that proves hard to disregard. There are shades of Two Dancers-era Wild Beasts to Clayton’s timbre, with hints of The Mars Volta emerging from the compositional elements of their lo-fi sound.
The anger, pain and expression felt in the throes of Crywank’s tracks are often met with dry comedic stylings in the space between acts, reminding you that this is art and not a form of mediation. There are distinct hints of gypsy-folk leanings in many of this outfit’s tunes reminiscent of Flogging Molly or the first two King Blues records, boasting minor cadences and offbeat deviations that inject an interesting level of depth to what could easily become formulaic progressions. Crywank certainly rest on their ability to realise the feelings of anguish and guilt that often bubble to the surface for many of our generation. Beyond that surface level there lies a distinct ability to craft art that showcases a deep understanding of creative brilliance.
It’s not hard to see why this band has enjoyed such longevity despite its name. Maybe that’s the joke.
See the video for ‘Doubt’ here: