Image: Alex Bird via The Boar

Crywank live review: a masterclass in good music, humour, and finding fun in the misery

Hare & Hounds, Birmingham, 10th December 2023

Indulging in the melancholy and the bleak with Crywank at Hare & Hounds in Birmingham was a cathartic treat. Jay Clayton and Dan Watson (collectively known as Crywank) provided a masterclass in finding fun in the misery – wallowing is still permitted at a Crywank show, but dancing is encouraged.

As a band, Crywank is fully independent in every way. This is reflected in their music, which defies convention. Clayton and Watson have done away with formulas and have created a discography that is honest but at an emotional distance. Falling in the category of folk punk, their lyricism is both cynical and devastating. This is epitomised in their best-known album, Tomorrow is Nearly Yesterday and Everyday is Stupid, home to their most memorable songs.

It is this album that also provides the trilogy of opening songs, including the personal favourite of ‘Song for a Guilty Sadist’. This explosive opening set the stage for an evening of fun, which is prerogative at this show. Clayton followed up a no-nonsense opening by proclaiming they would be playing songs that were “fun to play” rather than “hits”. Since the ever-so-popular ‘JK’ is purely two-chords, it is entirely understandable why the band may wish to play something else. This marks the beginning of a night of audience and band banter, making the show a comfortable environment for all.

In this sense, the song allowed for a cathartic release

Whilst claiming they wouldn’t play their greatest hits, they inevitably played the highlights of their discography: ‘I am a Familiar Creak in Your Floorboards’, ‘It’s OK I wouldn’t Remember Me Either’, and ‘Just a Snail’, among others. ‘Just a Snail’ was a particular highlight as Clayton adlibbed the second verse based on the throwaway comment made by Watson: “This one is about aliens”. Clayton then uses this adlib to raise the question: “Are molluscs aliens?” The act of adlibbing made the show feel more personalised and demonstrated the band’s humorous side perfectly.

What was particularly impressive about this show was Clayton’s vocal performance, most notably during ‘Privately Owned Spiral Galaxy’. A performance that was preceded by an explanation that Clayton had a broken rib, which meant that the demands of this song were heightened. Despite this, the cacophony of screaming that makes up the chorus of this track echoed through the room. With the venue flooded with screams, the audience was fully able to voice their frustrations with the world, feelings that are usually suppressed being allowed to escape. In this sense, the song allowed for a cathartic release, perfectly encapsulating the essence of Crywank.

This was sharply contrasted with a rendition of ‘Don’t Listen to This Song’ performed alongside Guard Petal, a touring member of the band who spent the evening on bass. Clayton’s vocals harmonised ethereally with Guard Petal’s, silencing a raucous crowd for the duration. This supplied a moment removed from their sardonic style, approaching the sincere. This intimacy was furthered by the narrowness of the venue, placing the audience and band in close proximity, perfectly enabling these quiet moments to capture everyone in the room.

Crammed into the small, sweaty room the audience felt understood

One standout performance was ‘An Academics Lament on Barbie’, a lesser-known track packaged with Clayton and Watson’s claim that “it’s always the obscure songs that are the most fun for us and you”. With lyrics exactly like the title describes, it offers an insight into the academic process and reflections on the relations between capitalism and feminism surrounding the Barbie brand. This choice felt particularly timely given the release of Barbie earlier this year. In the quiet build-up, the room parted, ready for a mosh pit. Dancing set to the lyrics “After quick and heavy editing / Self-flagellation for a cop-out ending” and “£27,000 down the drain / Ask yourself, “Was it worth it?” creates a sense of irony, surmises the frustrating aspects of the university experience. Crywank here excels in their relatability.

Crammed into the small, sweaty room the audience felt understood. Since Crywank voiced the sadness, paranoia, and cynicism that we all sometimes engage in. They were able to express the messiness of life and our minds in twangy acoustics and brash performances. In pairing the melancholy of their lyricism with their comedic personality, Crywank formulated an evening that is a joy from start to finish.



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