By Richard Wink
September 13, 2013
If we were to judge the latest Crystal Stilts album based on its opener ‘Spirit in Front of Me’ then some may go no further. It’s one of the most dreary, half arsed, diabolically dreadful opening songs I’ve ever heard. Assuming people still listen to albums in the traditional way, i.e. following the track listing; then the most impatient among us may choose to venture no further.
Nature Noir rewards the listener who perseveres. ‘Star Crawl’ is the sound of a Stetson wearing bad ass wandering into a saloon bar and making eyes with the swankiest dame in the joint. It is the collective body odour of James Dean, Steve McQueen and Ryan Gosling collected in an ironically shaped toby jug. It is the kind of cool that occupies all the senses, although in our case, and given we only need to hear it, it caresses our ears. This real easy going riff dominates the track; it is the kind that you find yourself knowingly doing that nod smile thing along to. You know, when you are filled by that “Aha, that’s my shit” feeling.
I don’t want to use these two words when describing what band the next song reminds me of, in fear that they might summon up the ghost of Ian Curtis, who has already possessed a host of indie rock luminaries including Paul Banks, Tom Smith Faris Badwan and Harry McVeigh, but the post punk rhythms of ‘Future Folklore’ marks the song as a ghost from the past. I don’t know, world weary monotone vocals aren’t always my thing, because they border on the insincere.
Each track is rhythmically different, acknowledging those proto influences, but attempting to forage a gap in the cramped dark woodland of modern male angst. ‘Memory Room’ is clouded in a dreamy seventies sprinkle of acoustic twinkleness. Crystal Stilts, on this, their third album, are attempting to push on and trudge a path of progress. ‘Worlds Gone Weird’ is a bold Anglophile Shoegaze reinterpretation, wavy and lush Brad Hargett seems starstruck whilst stood dead still staring up the sky. Although chances are he’s probably just mystified by an flickering streetlight.
The concerning thing about Crystal Stilts is that they can sometimes be bound by their limitations, the title track, beautiful as it is, conforms to the band’s own trademark sound. The steady drum fills, Television aping guitars and those grey clouds that gather in Brad Hargett’s throat.
Though this album is in my opinion stronger and more focused than In Love with Oblivion you wonder if Crystal Stilts will jump from their murky platform into the great unknown. I hope they take more risks in the future, even if those risks don’t come off.