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You get the feeling that the Crush are sharing an inside joke that never gets old. The band members look at one another with open-mouthed smiles. The only time they seem to drop these expressions is when they're concentrating on connecting their lips to the straws of the bloody marys in front of them. Not surprisingly, every sip they take is "so damn good." Every band they've played with is "so damn cool." If they're not being sarcastic--and most likely, they're not--you might suspect that they're talking this way because everything seems to be going so damn well for the Crush these days, and they're hoping like hell it stays that way.
The four members of the Minneapolis pop-punk band may sport the obligatory tattoos and piercings of the young and attitudinous, but any cynicism they harbor is well-concealed: When vocalist/guitarist Jason Miller talks about the band's newest release, Here Is Where I Cross My Fingers (Adeline), you have to fight the urge to reach over and muss his already perfectly messed-up hairdo.
"The album's title refers to a crush I had that evolved into something more," Miller explains. "I wrote it about that first encounter and what I hoped it could lead to. I was basically saying, This is where I cross my fingers. Hopefully this will go good. It's fitting, too, because this is our first release on a bigger independent label, and it's like, Here is where we cross our fingers again."
"It's a lot more optimistic than our first album," says guitarist/vocalist Andy Richardson, comparing the new release with their debut, Tonight Will Ruin Tomorrow (Blood of the Young). "[On] the first album, we had been crushed. Now, on this one, we have the crush."
As you may suspect, the album is not your run-of-the-mill, penis-joke-laden, Blink-182-rip-off record. The songs aren't about being in love--they're about being unabashedly, unashamedly, heart-on-your-record-sleeve in love. And the earnestness comes though with an honesty that would embarrass lesser men in songs such as "Kick the Cough that Kissed You Cold": "We speak through expressions/All of which were beautiful/Her shoulder blades take the shape of angel wings/Her eyes devised to drop you like stun guns."
Recorded at the Terrarium last spring, Here Is Where I Cross My Fingers has an artful intensity that is evident right from the first chorus of the title track. Throughout the album, Miller and Richardson keep the band wound tight with pulsating, muted guitar work. Their vocals have a bit of punk's bratty snarl, but not so much that you want to slap them back to a more natural timbre. Drummer Jason Cook and bassist John Ness fill in every conceivable musical space with intricate, tasteful phrasings, and Cook garnishes "This Shaking Sensation" with lightning-quick fills that manage not to be abrasive. But it's when the band deviates from its usual structures and quick tempos, letting the arrangements dissolve into an atmospheric blend of sustained vocals and undefined guitars, that the music really envelops you. "Insinuating What?" is a perfect example: It builds from a slow arpeggioed beginning into a climax of doubled vocals and stuttering guitar phrases that seem to fall over one another. Everything is wonderfully out of sync.
At Dillinger 4 bassist Paddy Costello's suggestion, the Crush sent Here Is Where I Cross My Fingers to Adeline Records, the pet project of Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong. Armstrong signed the Crush to his label, and just a few short months later, he invited the band to open for a couple of Green Day shows at London's Wembley Arena.
"I thought I was going to shit my pants before we played," Ness recalls, adding that about 12,000 people attended each show. "I haven't been nervous before we played a show in a really long time, and I was shaky."
Wobbly knees aside, that experience has the guys starting to see that their hopes for the future could materialize into something quite real. When asked where they'd like to be in a few years, Richardson makes it clear they hope their days working as cooks and house painters are numbered.
"It's time to put down the paint brush and the skillet and move on to full-time rock 'n' roll status," he says.
Keep those fingers crossed, guys.