Crystal Castles | III
The third album from Toronto’s highly charged, intensive synth-rock duo Crystal Castles comes along at a time when it seems almost half of the new bands arriving on the scene are using similar tools. While Crystal Castles were somewhat a breath of fresh air back in 2007-08, they no longer have the element of surprise, or even moderate innovation. And yet a good record, a catchy collection with just enough oddball twists and turns, crashes and bangs, is the least we could hope for. Unfortunately with III this isn’t what we’ve got.
The album begins with ‘Plague’, which was a recent free download, and no doubt one you’re already familiar with. Though not exactly rubbish, the cold, cinematic rush, but generally low key, vibe has a mid-album-lull feel to it; and certainly not their most grabbing of tunes. The fact that it begins this LP is not a good sign. Much, then, hangs on the following cut, ‘Kerosone’. This one has a lopsided; bit weird, bit mixed up vocal thing going on, as Alice Glass sings in restrained, almost whispering fashion. The distant-style, singing-in-the-mist is not the song’s weak link, it is more to do with the– how shall one put it?– non action; it seems to blow over without that crucial feeling of wanting to place the needle back to the beginning, so to speak. In fact too much on here feel thus.
‘Wrath of God’ has a title that assumes the album is finally ready to force open the doors to reveal something more angry and fierce. Yet even here the vocals are buried into the background as though drifting into a distant galaxy. It has a subtle four-to-floor beat, and features little Atari-like computer game ringing sounds occasionally, but again it’s quite withdrawn. It is at about this point when you begin to realize that things are possibly going to remain this way throughout; freak-sound, though widescreen, 21st century electro-pop but with a shortage of real highlights on offer.
‘Sad Eyes’ at least brings along a bit of a charge, some oomph and a nice hook; conjuring images of those 80s music videos with the girl running paranoid through big city streets on a wet autumn night, occasionally looking over her shoulder. The all too short ‘Insulin’ tries to force the issue, more by way of the electro-clash, in your face shenanigans we heard from them earlier in their lifespan; but this is just a moment of mid-album madness before things return to calmer shores. ‘Violent Youth’ and ‘Telepath’, meanwhile, play out in similarly turbo-charged robotic disco fashion, with the former’s odd upbeat punch and high-pitched vocal sounds the better of the two.
Crystal Castles installment III sounds not unlike that rather successful Grimes record from earlier in the year, especially regrading the way the vocals are done. It has a more subtle, atmospheric feel to it in comparison to the previous two Crystal Castles albums; items that could be up-front, shrieking, and almost riotous if allowed to be. They have, with III, generally held back on the rough-hewn, and gone for a more meticulous approach. So although credit of a sort must be allowed for this slight change, unfortunately there does not seem to be enough standout moments to have it up their among their previous work.