Crumbs lo-fi demo will leave you wanting more.
Demos have the unique ability of capturing the raw sound of a band at their infancy. They have the chance to start scenes (Bikini Kill's first tape) or put bands on the national spotlight (the G.L.O.S.S. demo from last year). For most bands, a demo is simply a way to get people's attention. The latest one trying to carve out space is from the Leeds/Yorkshire-based band Crumbs. The foursome are all veterans of the UK DIY scene, with each member playing in multiple bands and throwing shows under various monikers. This release, simply titled Demo Tape, reflects their experience even when it leaves room to grow. Released on Tuff Enuff records, "the record label spawned by Riots Not Diets, a Brighton-based queer/riot grrrl/DIY night," everything about the pink tape's packaging reeks of feminist punk cool. You can even buy it as a part of a combo pack that includes a patch of the John Waters-muse Divine or Enid Coleslaw from Ghostworld next to the slogan "Riots Not Diets." But it'll take a little more than a sweet package for a demo to impress.
Demo Tape can sound rough on a stereo. The bass is a little too loud, the vocals too soft, and the drums sound brittle. But when you make the switch to headphones, some good post-punk songs emerge to match the packaging. "Bunnies" has hooks and charm beneath its abrasive guitar sound. "Chaka Can't" is a song that manages to have some heft to balance out the punny title. Vocalist Ruth incants, "This is my safe place / My own little space...You could move around me but I can tell that you / Haven't thought of that have you," presumably referring to privileged people invading a minority-friendly space instead of enjoying the outside world that largely caters to their identity. She's talking about a similar subject as Seattle band Tacocat on their song "Men Explain Things to Me": the sense of entitlement and lack of empathy that comes from men not recognizing their privilege. Ruth mocks this self-important mindset during the chorus when she sings, "You're the cock of the walk / You're the king of it all / You're the one with the highest score." Politics aside, these two songs are fun, which is what I want from a sloppy post-punk band. I can imagine dancing in a basement in a crowd of chic-looking punks as the breakdown of "Chaka Can't" plays and singing along in a packed living room show to the chorus in "Bunnies." Crumbs try to sound serious and grand on "Trapped in a Haircut" and "Tiptoe," but sonically the band is more powerful when they're piling on hooks and moving fast. Still, they do enough on Demo Tape to make me wonder what Crumbs will sound in a cleaner setting. "Chaka Can't" is a real winner, and it's hard to judge a punk band without witnessing their live show. At the end of the day, I followed the band on Twitter. In 2016, what more can a young band hope from a demo?
Listen to Crumbs on bandcamp.
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Mo Wilson is a writer who enjoys collecting posters and still has a CD player. You can find him on twitter @sadgayfriendx.