Like some kind of Welsh plumber, everyone is obsessed with leaks. Record companies are. Listeners are. You are. As soon as a new album is complete, the race begins to be the first to hear it. The first to dismiss it. No one would even dream of awaiting the actual release date. Those have become mere guidelines.
I’m not prepared to wait for that. Why should I? I’m a busy person, with people to see, places to go. I won’t wait. I want everything now. Or yesterday. I deserve it. I’m great. Fuck you, artists. In fact, things are so bad that the end of this paragraph has been available to download since yesterday morning. Already, literally thousands of people have come to the same conclusion as you: it’s shit. Nowhere near as good as the last one.
The very fact that Crystal Castles are now big enough such that an early electronic spilling-of-the-beans would cause a major label to upset all of their well planned PR bandwagons and rush an album out more than a month ahead of schedule says quite a lot. For a start, it means we can’t say it was worth the wait. Because, dear friend, the wait is not what it should have been. It seems, for all the talk of file sharing and bit-torrenting destroying the music industry as we know it, not a thought was spared for cliché writers and descriptive-crutch utilisers all over the world.
But it also says there are far more eyes on this album than on the duo’s last. So credit them, at the very least, for not letting it show. Actually, credit them with far more than that. Credit them with producing an album far more coherent and far more consistent than their debut. The discordant maelstrom of fuzz that is Fainting Spells sounds like a police raid on an air-raid siren factory. Doe Deer could well be what you’d get if you actually asked Alice Glass to sacrifice Bambi’s mother and Ethan Kath to provide musical accompaniment to the whole horrific spectacle.
Both of those are, in this context, good things. But, good as they are, they aren’t that which elevates this record above its predecessor. Because, as anyone who’s been near a Crystal Castles gig over the past couple of years can tell you, we know they can do headlong rushes of rage-fueled energy in their sleep. What we were less sure of was whether they had the range. So it’s the subtler, broader moments that really impress: Empathy darts between skittering beats, distorted synths and a soothing balm of a vocal. Violent Dreams is blissful, restless and builds towards an electronica coda that could easily climax a John Carpenter film.
They’re still sample snafflers at heart, as Year Of Silence proves, courtesy of Jónsi‘s voice. And they’re still at their best when deconstructing and reassembling rave, as they do on the irresistable Baptism.
Fortunately the lack of ambition displayed during the album-naming sessions doesn’t correspond to this work’s contents. It’s a bold, dramatic, more than a little screwed-up and stunningly exciting statement. In short, it’s an album worth not having to wait an extra 30 days to hear. Or read about.