To this critic, the Cribs -- whose new album 'In the Belly of the Brazen Bull' is now out -- are a mystery. They're beloved in their native U.K.: Their three albums in the '00s all charted, 2009's 'Ignore the Ignorant' reaching No. 9. Their shows sell out up and down the rainy island, and they were so well-admired that Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr joined that band for years -- though he's since left.

But why are they still so popular?

This is, essentially, the present strain of three-chord punk, a holdover from a defunct fad. The band came on during one of the most throwaway "movements" in recent rock history, when the "garage rock revival" (how profoundly vomitous that phrase is) was in full swing. The insipid Vines came out of Australia, the supercharged Hives bowled out of Sweden and a little band called the White Stripes started to make a name for themselves in America. As every A&R rep was scrambling to cash in on this trend, those the brothers Jarman -- that's Gary, Ryan, and Ross -- were discovered.

An even greater mystery is: Why is this album so good?

Yes, all the songs sound basically the same, which is to say, they're the same as all the other Cribs songs. Yes, Ryan Jarman's singing is more like shouting. Yes, they don't have a guitarist from alternative music's formative bands on board any longer. It's back to three brothers, limited vocals, and screeching guitars. And it's awesome.

Let's get into it: The album announces itself with howls of distortion and crashing cymbals in 'Glitters Like Gold,' which then segues into a midtempo, rock-by-numbers guitar riff. The boys bear their teeth with 'Come On Be a No One," a punk rock calling out of their youthful audience's pressures. A bit of romance enters the picture with fuzz-ballad 'Anna,' whose hand claps and hooky chorus make for an upbeat breakup song (that might have been written in reference to Kate Nash, who Ryan dated and broke up with while writing the album). Ryan recalls the salad days of his youth of bumming around the Windy City and crashing at a girlfriend's place in 'Chi Town.' The album ends with the band at their most ambitious -- and maybe most ridiculous -- with a four-song suite that concludes with Oasis-like singalong grandiosity. In total, the record is either smashing or kissing your face throughout, sometime simultaneously.

So maybe there's no mystery at all behind their continued success. The Cribs play direct, exciting music. In other words, they rock.