BritRock Classics #8: Crank

We’ve already done The Wildhearts, Terrorvision, Manic Street Preachers, Skunk Anansie, Honeycrack, 3 Colours Red and A. Now it’s time for Rock legends The Almighty:

 If the nineties did anything for rock music it was to allow musicians to acknowledge a broader range of influences. It had happened before of course, The Clash’s love of Reggae or Anthrax and Public Enemy’s collaboration. But for large parts of the eighties within rock and metal’s sub genres battle lines were drawn and boundaries guarded. Hair metal didn’t mix with Thrash, punk and hardcore were separate again. Some bands crossed over of course and for many fans the distinctions meant very little, they would happily buy Motley Crüe’s Girls, Girls, Girls one week, Metallica’s Master of Puppets the next and Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables by Dead Kennedys the week after that. All this meant that the next generation of musicians blurred the boundaries and rock music evolved. For some it was subtle, others more overt, and for some you could even watch it happen album by album.

The Almighty, later Almighty, later still The Almighty again were one such band. Formed in Scotland in the late-eighties when the likes of Bon Jovi still dominated the rock scene, The Almighty were placed in the ‘hair’ end of the rock spectrum, though not in the full hairspray and make-up camp. As the scene changed so too did the band, later albums even garnering favourable comparisons to Alice in Chains – the acceptable face of Grunge to many a died-in-the-wool metaller and the very antithesis of the glam metal bands The Almighty had been grouped with. The evolution had been gradual and subtle, however on 1994’s Crank the change was more marked. The punk rock influence on the BritRock scene was there for everyone to see and earlier in the year Green Day’s Dookie had exploded, making punk cool again. Into this environment The Almighty released Crank, singer Ricky Warwick had cut his hair, they’d ditched the denim and leather look and they’d embraced the punk rock music they grew up listening too. They were hardly the only band of the time to adapt to the changing tastes of the music scene but this felt less cynical than most. For starters they were much more Stiff Little Fingers than the bubblegum punk of mid-nineties Green Day. The album artwork, designed by Jamie Reid, who also designed the Nevermind the Bollocks cover, also added authenticity. Warwick had cut his teeth touring with New Model Army so this more angry, politicised direction was arguably closer to his roots than The Almighty’s original sound. The anger too was genuine, rallying against the Government’s draconian Criminal Justice Bill which in part was designed to make raves, free parties and free festivals illegal but by many was seen as an excuse for the police to clamp down on anyone playing their music too loud, or to too many people. The Almighty’s new sound was hard, heavy and furious and it suited them. Four albums in and it seemed The Almighty had found their sound. It was a risk though. Previous album Powertrippin’ had been a commercial success, reaching #5 in the album charts. Crank couldn’t match that, although #15 was still a respectable placing, enough to keep them on the cover of Kerrang! at least, aided in no small part to Warwick’s outspoken, opionated interviews. It was also impressive due to the fact that despite the cynical idea that they ‘rediscovered’ their punk roots just as punk became popular again, this was no commercial album, there were no ballads, no pop-punk choruses to sing-along to and no concession to being radio-friendly. The Almighty evolved their sound to stay true to themselves, not to sell records. Despite that the album spawned their two most successful singles to date, Wrench and Jonestown Mind both peaking at #26. It was also enough encouragement for them that they further developed the sound on follow up album Just Add Life. However that was just about that for The Almighty (or Almighty as they were known at that point). There was – of course – the obligatory reunion in the mid-2000s, followed by another album but as with so many of their BritRock peers it added little to their legacy.

Frontman Ricky Warwick, after a few failed attempts with new bands, became the frontman for the band touring under the Thin Lizzy monicker, before they rebranded themselves as Black Star Riders and gained a decent following in their own right. He has also forged a critically acclaimed solo career, adding an acoustic folk element to his burgeoning bag of genres and alongside Ginger Wildheart seems to have gained an elder statesman status in the rock world, a fitting final flourish for one of BritRock’s most creative and charismatic musicians.

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