Square Moon, The Crimea's jumbo-sized third album, was originally meant to be released on the 31st of October, 2011. It was actually only released today, and at some point in the intervening 21 months, the band decided that this would be their last hurrah. After one final gig in London tomorrow night, they're packing it in, which is a very great shame indeed. I love The Crimea with a fervency that's reserved for brilliant bands that nobody else seems to have heard of, and so I thought I'd share some thoughts on their work before the curtain falls.
I discovered The Crimea at Cardiff's Big Weekend in the summer of 2006. I had been watching a band called Cord, and I was all set to wander away from the stage and track down my friends when two chaps in Crimea T-shirts asked if I was staying to watch them. I hadn't intended to, but they assured me that it would be well worth my time, and by Jove, they weren't wrong. Standing next to two people who were joyously singing along with every lyric probably heightened the experience, but it was pretty amazing anyway, and Lottery Winners on Acid in particular made such an impression that I was compelled to track down its parent album, Tragedy Rocks.
I spent the rest of that summer singing along to the likes of Girl Just Died and White Russian Galaxy, and when I stumbled upon a new Crimea album in Spillers one year on, I couldn't part with my cash quickly enough. I needn't have bothered, of course - this was Secrets of the Witching Hour, which has now passed into legend for being arguably the first ever free-to-download album - but the price was more than justified, and just as Tragedy Rocks had been my soundtrack for Summer '06, Secrets... was a loyal friend in Summer '07. My family took me on holiday to Newcastle that year, and since my MP3 player had recently conked out, I dusted off my portable CD player and nearly wore out the Secrets of the Witching Hour disc in the space of a week. Songs like Don't Close Your Eyes On Me and Light Brigade were everything I needed at that point, and as you'll notice if you look to the right, the album is now a permanent fixture in my All-Time Top 10 list. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - if you haven't already downloaded this record, do it now.
I attended my second Crimea gig in Summer 2008 (an intimate affair at The Gate, which is a converted church in Roath) and the setlist was packed with previews of new songs which promised big things for their upcoming third LP. I was dizzy with anticipation; I listened to the demos on their myspace page a lot, and I keenly awaited the big announcement.
And eventually, after years of agonising silence, came Square Moon. It was actually only three years, rather than five; I and other fast-moving Crimea fans have secretly had these 22 songs on our iPods for some time, having bought it on a limited pre-order back in 2011. While many will only be purchasing this album today, we already have nearly two years of memories attached to it. I've already realised how much Shredder sounds like Cows and Cows and Cows and Cows; I've already smiled along to Mid-Air Collisions, shouted along to We Stand Alone, wondered whether he's singing about 'Adam and Eve' or 'Saddam and Eve' in Lupara Bianca.
And yet it still keeps me hanging on. I was listening to Square Moon this afternoon, and I'm surprised that an album I've had for almost two years can still make me feel so many feelings. But sure enough, those themes of loss and separation and sudden, unexpected estrangement - as heard throughout the album but especially on Lovers of the Disappeared - hit me right in the heart to this very day.
Ugh. I'm sorry to bore you with extracts from my tedious life story, but the point I'm trying to make is that The Crimea are an intensely personal band, the polar opposite of background music, and it's impossible not to get wrapped up in them while listening. Better still, their massive melodies and sharp hooks make them pretty accessible, which means that more or less everyone can get up close and personal with these tracks. They're a band to live by, and just listening to them is a huge experience in itself. I can't make it to their farewell gig in London and that makes me very sad, but even if you've arrived after the end, I'd implore you to check The Crimea out ASAP. Buy Square Moon from Alcopop Records today, and pretty soon, you'll have your own story to tell.
At least that way, you won't have to listen to mine.