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Now Hear This: Crazy Arm | Dark Hands, Thunderbolts

Punk, roots & sharp lyrics: There's plenty to dig in the Devon outfit's latest release.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Dark Hands, Thunderbolts is Devon punk-roots trailblazers Crazy Arm’s fourth album, and comes cold on the calves of 2013’s The Southern Wild. A return to the rowdy guitars, epic choruses and Americana twang of their first two albums, this collection of songs finds the band in a reflective but no less indignant mood. Despite spending only three weeks in the studio, it took the band four years to complete. To cut a long story short (see personal account below), life got in the way.

The album features the heaviest, the lightest and the most expansive songs that Crazy Arm have recorded, with a strong cinematic influence at play. Montenegro, Blessed & Cursed, Fear Up and Howl Of The Heart all betray the band’s oft-mentioned fondness for Ennio Morricone, Murder By Death, 16 Horsepower and Constantines; while the two mournful interludes, Dearborn and Paradiso, are soundtrack scores-in-waiting, featuring Samantha Spake and Simon Dobson on violin and trumpet, respectively. Of course, the band’s stock-in-trade — breathless punk rock riffola, Appalachian harmonies, syncopated rhythms, anthemic singalongs — are still very present, correct and unrelenting.

Subject matter is varied and timely, despite the long gestation period. And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Meds and Demonised lay existential despair bare via caffeinated post-hardcore; Loose Lips wades through Southern sludge with a salute to refugees; The Golden Hind violently skewers the band’s Brexit-majority hometown; Mow The Sward turns alienation into a heartland rock anthem; Epicurean Firestorm remoulds Arcade Fire in a cauldron of guitars and body dysmorphia; and Health Is In You! is a pro-feminist clarion call that sounds like ZZ Top mentoring Hot Snakes. As a whole, Dark Hands, Thunderbolts is a sonic and emotional rollercoaster ride that upends expectations at every turn.

The band’s statement: “Our last record was released in 2013. A year later we almost called it a day but Jon said we should record one more album. Behold! We demoed these songs in the summer of 2016 and started recording properly that winter with two drummers, Tim Langsford and Matt Wise. We finished recording in the summer of 2020, having spent only spent three weeks in total working on the album. Suffice to say, this has been a very protracted affair.

“Over the four years, the songs effectively grew up, hit puberty, left home and came back with crow’s feet and new pronouns. In the meantime, Jon got married, had a baby, and became a pro tattooist; I started playing solo as Warshy and bid a final farewell to my mum and cat; Matt settled in sunny Bournemouth; Luke moved to Leeds and got married; Dan James became our new live bassist; Tia Kalmaru and Becky Saxton started singing with us; Samantha Spake became our second violinist; and the world got a whole lot more unstable (although the dumping of Trump will help us all sleep a little easier).

“We may be entering the band’s twilight years (we’re 15 years old!), and the twin troughs of Covid and Brexit may have scuppered all our best-laid tour plans, but we’re not done yet. And the Crazy Arm collective now includes 16 people so there’s no shortage of possibilities. Here’s to the unwritten future.”

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