Cranes (band)

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Cranes singer Alison Shaw
Cranes singer Alison Shaw
Background information
OriginPortsmouth, England
GenresDream pop, gothic rock, shoegaze[1]
Years active1985–1997, 2000–present
LabelsBite Back
Dedicated Records
MembersAlison Shaw
Jim Shaw
Paul Smith
Mark Francombe
Past membersMatt Cope
Manu Ross
Jon Callender
Ben Baxter
Jon Mattock

Cranes are a British rock band formed in 1985.[2]


Formed in 1985[3] in Portsmouth, England by siblings Alison and Jim Shaw[4] and named after the many mechanical cranes around the city's docks, Cranes are best known for the singular childlike vocals of lead singer Alison.

The band's first release was the self-financed Fuse cassette.[4] Signing with Portsmouth based independent label Bite Back!, Cranes recorded the Self Non Self mini-LP in 1989, which led to them recording their first of two sessions for John Peel's BBC Radio 1 show.[5][6] They moved to the BMG offshoot Dedicated Records in 1990.[4] With the addition of Mark Francombe and Matt Cope (both guitar), Cranes attained a front cover with Melody Maker magazine and released a series of critically acclaimed EPs in 1990 and 1991 that preceded their debut full-length album, Wings of Joy, which reached number 52 on the UK Albums Chart.[4] Following a general softening of their sound, the introduction of pop elements to their music, and a world tour with the Cure in 1992, the band's popularity increased, and peaked with the release of the album Forever (UK No. 40), which contained their biggest hit single, "Jewel" (UK No. 29).[4] Loved followed in 1994.

The band fell silent for a period of approximately four years after the release of Population 4 in 1997, and the subsequent closure of Dedicated, with the original line-up disbanding.[7] In 2000, the Shaws formed a new line-up and began writing music again, and released Future Songs and Particles and Waves on their own label, Dadaphonic.[7] These albums signified a change in the overall style of their music, emphasising its ambient, ethereal qualities. Despite heading in a more electronic direction, however, the band's music continued to revolve around Alison Shaw's distinctive singing. In 2002 the band again supported The Cure, at Hyde Park and several European festivals.[7]

Cranes reformed in 2023 for their first live shows in eleven years and have also announced shows for 2024. The band also released a new album on CD and Vinyl which collected their John Peel Sessions from 1989 - 1990. The band area also rumoured to be in the studio finishing off their next album.

Musical style[edit]

Cranes performing live

The band's music has been described as "gothic minimalism", although the band have disputed the "gothic" label.[4][8] They have also been described as dream pop.[8] In the early 1990s they were briefly included as part of the shoegazing movement of the era.[4]

“The Cranes have been tagged with more than their share of inaccurate labels over the years, such as "Gothic", "Ethereal" and even "Industrial", but just as often, they are more accurately described as a band with a furiously creative drive which allows even their simplest songs to sound beautifully honest and original.

But as simple as their music seems, the Cranes have always kept things interesting by giving their music an element of edginess and unpredictability. Some of their songs make their point with no more than three notes played repeatedly on a piano, while others rely on screeching, wailing walls of sound provided by guitarists Matt Cope and Mark Francombe, while still others rely on a clever, sometimes surprising combination of the two. All of these elements are complemented perfectly by Shaw's unmistakable vocal style and her brother Jim Shaw's precise and powerful percussion.”

— Andy Dolan, The Michigan Daily, 1995[9]

Much has been made of Alison Shaw's vocals, with descriptions ranging from "the helium tones of a small child",[10] "baby-doll-voiced",[11] and "a mewling, childish wisp of a voice".[12] One reviewer described the band: "Imagine a small child singing lullabies at the bottom of the well with a background of grinding guitars".[13]

Band members[edit]



  • Fuse (February 1986) - self-produced demo tape
  • Cranes (1989) - self-produced promo tape limited to 20 copies only: "Beachmover" / "Starblood" (unrealeased version) / "Putsch" (aka "One From The Slum") / "Focus Breathe"


  • Wings of Joy (September 1991) - Dedicated/RCA
  • Forever (April 1993) - Dedicated/RCA
  • Loved (September 1994) - Dedicated/Arista
  • La Tragédie d'Oreste et Électre (Limited Edition) (May 1996) - Dedicated/Arista
  • Population Four (February 1997) - Dedicated/Arista
  • Future Songs (June 2001) - Dadaphonic
  • Particles & Waves (2004) - Dadaphonic
  • Cranes (2008) - Dadaphonic

Compilations / live albums[edit]

  • EP Collection, Vol. 1 & 2 (September 1997) - Dedicated
  • Live in Italy (2003) - Dadaphonic
  • Live at Paradiso 1991 (2007) - for download only
  • John Peel Sessions (1989-1990) (2023) - Dadaphonic

Singles and EPs[edit]

  • "Self-Non-Self", Bite Back! (May 1989, re-issued on CD with two extra tracks, 12 November 1992)
  • "Inescapable, Dedicated – 4 non-album tracks (August 1990)
  • "Espero", Dedicated – 3 non-album tracks (November 1990)
  • "Adoration", Dedicated – 2 tracks including a non-album B-side (May 1991)
  • Tomorrow's Tears, Dedicated – 4 tracks including 2 non-album tracks (August 1991)
  • "Starblood (Remix}", Dedicated - limited edition 12" with Wings of Joy album (September 1991)
  • "Adrift", Dedicated – 3 tracks including 1 non-album track (March 1993)
  • "Jewel", Dedicated/RCA – UK No. 29,[14] 3 different releases with remixes, one of them includes a non-album track (August 1993)
  • Forever Remixes, Dedicated – 6 remixes of tracks from the Forever album (1993)
  • "Slide", Dedicated - limited edition 3 non-album tracks with Forever album (April 1993)
  • Shining Road, Dedicated – UK No. 57,[14] 2 different releases each with 4 tracks with 2 (different) non-album tracks (August 1994)
  • "Lilies", Dedicated/Arista (Promotional Only) (1995)
  • Can't Get Free, Dedicated – 5 tracks including 4 non-album tracks (May 1997)
  • Submarine, Dadaphonic - 8 remixes of a few tracks from the Future Songs album (2002)
  • "The Moon City/It's a Beautiful World", Elefant – 2 non-album tracks (7" only, November 2002)


  • Cranes first recorded appearance was a track called "Vegetate" for a cassette compilation on Bite Back! named "Against The Tide" (recorded 1985, UK release - February 1986).
  • The track "Nothing In The Middle Nothing In The End" first appeared on the Bite Back! compilation album "Make Ready For Revelation" in 1987.
  • Cranes contributed a demo of "Cha Cha Escueta" (although named "Untitled" on the sleeve) on the Melody Maker cassette compilation "Gigantic 2" (1990).
  • Alison Shaw was the vocalist for the 7" single "Glow" by Inrain on Rough Trade Records, a collaboration with Rudi Tambala of AR Kane (UK release - January 1992).
  • The track Astronauts from the 2004 album Particles and Waves has been used as music for the American Express commercial with actress Kate Winslet.
  • Alison Shaw recorded a new song Endormie with the group Twine on their last album, Violets.
  • The track Shining Road was played in the film Eye for an Eye.
  • The television series Californication uses the track "Don't Wake Me Up" during the outro sequence and credits of Season 4, Episode 5.


  1. ^ Clarke, Mia. "Cranes". Pitchfork, 16 January 2009. Retrieved 4 April 2021
  2. ^ Bite Back interview 1989
  3. ^ Bite Back interview 1989
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Strong, Martin Charles (2003). The Great Indie Discography. Canongate U.S. pp. 690–1. ISBN 978-1-84195-335-9.
  5. ^ Bottomly, Mo (1991) "Cranes", Lime Lizard, March 1991, p. 4-6
  6. ^ "Cranes", Keeping it Peel, BBC, retrieved 1 January 2011
  7. ^ a b c Strutt, Anthony (2004) "Cranes : Interview with Alison Shaw Archived 5 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine",, 24 September 2004, retrieved 28 December 2010
  8. ^ a b Larkin, Colin (1998). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Indie & New Wave. Virgin Publishing. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-7535-0231-0.
  9. ^ Andy Dolan: Interview with Cranes, The Michigan Daily, p. 8, March 1, 1995
  10. ^ Price, Simon (2010) "Paolo Nutini, Royal Albert Hall, London; Cranes, Jazz Café, London", The Independent, 11 April 2010, retrieved 28 December 2010 Archived 28 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Hochman, Steve (1993) "England's Cranes Soar at the Whisky", Los Angeles Times, 18 September 1993, p. 10
  12. ^ Pareles, Jon (1992) "Cranes and Belly, Limelight", The New York Times, 23 April 1992, retrieved 28 December 2010
  13. ^ VanNoy, Emily (1994) "Cranes Trade Gothic Pianos for Guitars", Cavalier Daily, 10 November 1994, p. 7, retrieved 28 December 2010
  14. ^ a b "Cranes", Chart Stats, retrieved 28 December 2010[dead link]

External links[edit]