The London band Cranes are often overlooked when people talk about early nineties indie bands. They’re something else altogether, often labelled Goth, industrial, neo – classical, shoegazing or dream-pop. The truth is, they are all of these things, and their own unique thing.
Formed by siblings Alison and Jim Shaw, the band could grind, or make the most delicate dreamy indie rock. Anchoring their sound was Alison’s incredible voice, described as being like “helium” or “a wailing child”. A bit lazy, I reckon. She’s simply Alison Shaw. To me, she’s a siren, luring sailors to certain doom.
Their debut studio album Wings of Joy deserves all the plaudits. It’s like being stroked, then slapped. A wonderful, exciting debut by any stretch of the imagination, it doesn’t slot into easy genres, and is much better for it.
Opener Watersong has pizzicato strings, and Tomorrow’s Tears could sit along 4AD bands like Cocteau Twins. But then, there’s the absolutely unrelenting Sixth Of May, a funeral dirge which offers no comfort whatsoever, with Shaw sounding utterly traumatised.
It’s a unique record, whether in soft or pulverising mode – I am still amazed by how well it stands up, even today. Superlatives don’t do it justice.