October and November 2010 should have been a busy time for Crazy Arm, with a UK tour supporting Against Me! and Fucked Up being closely followed by a support slot in mainland Europe with the former of the two bands. However, with Against Me! cancelling all touring for 2010, this left the band with a lot of free time and also two tracks that were due to be used as a split tour 7" with Against Me!.
Rather than sit on them, these tracks now see the light of day--firstly in digital format--as the band do a short UK tour, although a 7" vinyl version will follow in 2011. As it's effectively a double A-side, I'll deal with the tracks in alphabetical order.
"Ambertown" kicks off with Darren Johns' dulcet tones slowly luring the listener into the song before it suddenly bursts into life with a riot of guitars and drums, a formula that Crazy Arm regularly apply to songs but which never seems boring or contrived. Lyrically, there is enough in the song to keep you thinking about the meaning of the song or individual lines, and this is one key feature of all Crazy Arm songs--they are rammed to the rafters with lyrics. Having heard this song in the live set a few times, I wasn't too sure on my feelings about it, but now having the chance to hear it as a fully fledged recording it easily fits into what I expect to hear from the band. It has enough twists and turns to keep it from being one-dimensional and comes across like a journey guided by satellite navigation where there are occasional, and deliberate, turns taken against the given advice, but which provide a much more interesting voyage. All in all this is an excellent song and I know that the next time I see them in action I'll be singing my heart out.
The other offering, "Sweet Storm" sees an acoustic approach with some added banjo playing, which makes a mockery of the description used by the band of sometimes sounding like "Fugazi with banjos but without the banjos." Johns' warm and inviting vocal is complemented perfectly by a sublime performance from Vicky Butterfield that provides the track with an almost haunting and ethereal feel, the twin approach working extremely effectively. This is where Crazy Arm divert from what might be expected from them if you've seen one of their "normal" live shows--this is a stripped-down, beautiful song that shows they have another side to them, one that can be powerful and evocative but without the use of electric guitars and drums. This is the most "folk" or "roots" sounding track that the band have released, although it is of no surprise that they are proficient at such an approach given the inclusion of Peggy Seeger's "Song of Choice" in their live set.
This single is one of the best releases of the year in my mind, and although I am biased about the band, to me they are consistently delivering music keenly linked to messages that I can empathise and agree with, whilst enjoying the entertainment behind it all. Both songs have the ability to draw you in with lyrics that conjure up images both bleak and warming to accompany the music. Check out the digital version and then seek out the vinyl when it is available early in 2011--you should not be disappointed. Then keep your eyes peeled for news of the followup to 2008's Born to Ruin, one of the best releases of the last five years.