Review: Crooked Man - Crooked Man LP - DFA
If music be the booze of love, drink up.
Proving that producers, like fine wine, gain complexity and body with age, Sheffield’s Richard Barratt uncorks his Crooked Man debut LP after a slew of astonishing singles for his own imprint, Optimo Trax and, latterly, DFA.
Nearly all the tracks here have been released in some form during the project’s four-year gestation, so there’s no big reveal as such. The off-kilter beats and post-punk drive of “Preset” and “The Girl with Better Clothes”; the urgent, raw disco throb of “This Machine Kills Me” are present and correct, right through to the piano-led, pitched positivity of most recent release, “Happiness”. What is a surprise is how well these apparently disparate elements manage to blend.
I’m not really much of a “happiness” kind of guy, if I’m honest. There’s nothing like relentless optimism to piss me right off. So, when I first heard the album closer, it was a circle I couldn’t square. How could the man who’d written the scorching, dark demonization of the banking system “Scum (Always Rises to the Top)” have produced something so unmistakably, tops-off sunny? Something so bloody youthful?
The answer is twofold. First: I appear to be an irredeemably grumpy arsehole, who forgot how to enjoy myself somewhere around the turn of the millennium. Second: you remember that wine analogy earlier? The one that you skipped past without a second thought? Well, it’s about to come back for a reprise. Because, you see, what you get when you blend all these songs together is, like a good red, lively at the start, slightly spiky tannins exciting with texture and intensity. Then, as we reach new track “Fools and Fanatics” things begin to mellow and smooth out, guiding us to the… ahem… happy finish.
And then came the revelation. The lighter elements on this album aren’t songs of youth, they’re songs of experience, of understanding how to create a strong flavour without making it painfully one-note. Richard Barratt gets it, and so should you.