SALLY CREWE: LATER THAN YOU THINK
SEPTEMBER 22, 2015
8 TRACK MIND
Sally Crewe plays pop music for people who think they don’t have any use for pop music.
If you’re already OK with a great melodic hook and sharp, spunky guitar work, then Sally Crewe is just what you’re looking for. But if you think pop music in the 21st Century either means teen-centric auto-tuned confections that make an adult’s fillings ache or the stuff of aging cultists with Rickenbackers and too many Flamin’ Groovies bootlegs, Sally Crewe is an artist you need in your life. Crewe plays simple, strong, but wiry rock ‘n’ roll that you can hum (or dance) along with without feeling foolish, and when she sings about relationships, work, the state of the world, and the other details of a lived life, you can be over the age of the average Taylor Swift fan and feel like you fit right in. And she makes it all sound like cool, edgy fun.
Sally Crewe has been playing her brand of lean, clever music — the kind that rests comfortably at the point on the Venn Diagram where first wave punk and smart, sharp pop meet – since making her debut with the splendid Drive It Like You Stole It in 2003. But Crewe hasn’t been resting on her laurels (or her enthusiastic reviews), and her fourth album, Later Than You Think, is her most ambitious and forward thinking work to date, ten songs that capture what Crewe does best while shaking up her formula as a songwriter and a performer.
Produced by Crewe in collaboration with George Duron (who also plays drums on the sessions) and Louie Lino (engineer and operator of Austin’s Resonate Studios), Later Than You Think is the product of an artist who set out to challenge herself to make an album that stood out from her critically acclaimed body of work. “I wanted to make the best record I’ve ever made, and to do that it had to be a closer reflection of the songs I hear in my head,” Crewe said. “Sometimes I wake up with a section of music in my head, and it takes me a few hours to convince myself I wrote it and didn’t hear it somewhere. Then the job of getting it to sound as close as possible to what I hear begins. And that’s the part I’m getting better at. Every record gets closer to that, and this is the closest so far.”
Judging from the finished product, those sounds in Crewe’s head are pretty great. Later Than You Think is full of memorable songs, built around no-frills melodies and hooks that will stay with you after the tunes are over, but Crewe has also upped her game as a guitarist, delivering memorable guitar solos on numbers like “Chase Tornado,” “Only Luck Can Save Us Now,” and the title cut, while overlaying guitar tracks to give the songs the muscle and backbone they need.
Though the album is for-real rock ‘n’ roll, “Satellite” finds Crewe experimenting with drum loops for the first time, as well as adding additional colors with organs, synthesizers, and mallet percussion. And with the help of drummer Duron and bassist Matt Baab, the performances run the gamut from the slyly funky “Look Back Down” and the inventive pop of “Needle in the Groove” to the rock ‘n’ roll swagger of “What You Do,” and they all sound bracing and confident from first cut to last.
As a singer and lyricist, Sally Crewe goes from strength to strength on Later Than You Think. Crewe’s voice recalls your good friend who is sweet at heart but nobody’s fool, and not hesitant to point out when you’ve screwed up (or sometimes when she’s done the same). And her lyrical outlook fits like a glove as she ponders romance gone seriously wrong (“Satellite”), the ups and downs of working for a living (“Only Luck Can Save Us Now”), the delicate balance of life in the modern world (“The Payback”), and the endless struggle of keeping your dogs happy (“What You Do”).
“The album seems to have a general theme of loss and renewal,” Crewe says. “So ‘Later Than You Think’ made sense as the title track. It refers to the state of the planet, as well as a reminder to seize the day and stop procrastinating.” If Crewe would like her listeners to step up and take action, that’s very much what she’s done with this album. Later Than You Think proves there’s still room for pop music that’s smart, inventive, and ambitious … and a kick to hear at the same time.
Sally Crewe has made one of 2015’s great grown-up rock ‘n’ roll albums, and you owe it to yourself to investigate it while the time is right.