Take one ex-punk band frontwoman well-known in the indie music scene for chugging from vodka bottles onstage, fighting with security guards, and getting pulled offstage for climbing the stage rigging at Glastonbury, add knob-twiddling, shy-guy producer Ethan Kath famous for describing his act’s live shows as a “disgrace to music”, and what do you get? The insanity that is frenetic, electro-punk act Crystal Castles, and they’re back with a second album that is just as riotous and deliciously danceable as their first.
Confusingly, their second effort shares its title with their (self-titled) first outing. Leaked on the internet before being released a few weeks later, there is a definite progression in sound from their first effort – a particularly dire metaphor I drunkenly came up with in an attempt to describe Crystal Castles to a friend: album one is that skinny, beautiful blonde in the barely-there dress at the club, trashed and dancing on tables with all eyes on her. The second is the same blonde in your bed the morning after, hungover, rubbing her tired eyes and beginning to wonder what she’s doing with her life. There’s that same nihilistic, fuck-you attitude to it, but tinged with a shade of melancholia. They’ve grown up and it shows, both lyrically and musically: the producing is tighter, more crisp, but still wild and definitively-‘Crystal Castles’.
‘Fainting Spells’ draws an interesting parallel between the second and first albums: ‘Magic Spells’ on album one was one of the first singles to be released. ‘Fainting Spells’ is a wicked tune, making the punk influences of Crystal Castles clear – Alice Glass’ customary screeching is backed by a wild, noisy mess of 8-bit beeps and beats, setting an interesting precedent for what’s to come. It’s not all in-your-face riot-pop, though: there’s the strangetly heartrending melancholia of ‘Suffocation’ (where Glass sings, regretfully, “I suffocate, and promise me you won’t resuscitate”) and Violent Dreams, interspersed within the dancefloor-type tunes like ‘Doe Deer’ and ‘Intimate’. It’s just as easy to dance to and lose yourself in as their first, rather excellent album, but a beautiful progression in mood for the two.
Even in its more reflective, moodier moments, Crystal Castles manages to retain their skill for tightly-produced tunes, rife with innovatine use of samples and synthesisers and pounding beats. For an act that have made their disdain for disco and club music in general quite clear, Crystal Castles sure as hell do it brilliantly – a testament to the amount of talent possessed by the duo.
For a sample of what to expect from this album, and the Crystal Castles live show, here’s a recording of ‘Baptism’ from Lollapalooza, ’09.
(This review is the first from Miki, the girl behind Iconastasia: let us know what you thought, and keep an eye out for more!)