Album Reviews

Crystal Stilts – Alight Of Night

(Angular) UK release date: 16 February 2009


Forgive me if you are one of the pale young things who are sent in to raptures by this album and have already marked down Crystal Stilts as the second coming of The Jesus And Mary Chain. Because for the love of me I can’t find anything to enjoy about Alight Of Night whatsoever.

Though they may hail from the streets of Brooklyn, you would be hard pushed to find anything remotely New York or even American about Crystal Stilts. Picture instead a grey, wet winter day in Manchester circa 1986 and you are getting closer to the truth.

Yes folks, for all those pining for the hazy days of C86 then we are living in fertile times indeed. The Vivian Girls, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and School Of Seven Bells have already given us their two penneth worth, and now it’s the turn of Crystal Stilts.

Discovered by Hamish Kilgour of The Clean (another achingly hip name to drop), Crystal Stilts have followed the time honoured route of releasing a digital EP and building up a fervent cult following on MySpace. And now here they are returning to their spiritual home with the UK release of their 2008 debut album.

The Dazzled opens things up but, in stark contrast to its title, the song is a murky garage rock shuffle. All that is wrong with this album is present on this track. The sub-Velvet Underground rhythm section of Frankie Rose and Andy Adler plods along with no real purpose, guitarist JB Townsend riffs away in a world of his own, and singer Brad Hargett mumbles along as if possessed by the spirit of Jim Reid.

But where we would be without a bit of tinny surf organ and some primary school level tambourine playing? All are present and correct on the self-referential track Crystal Stilts. Beware bands naming a song after themselves, especially a track that nails all their colours to the mast in such slapdash fashion.

On and on this depressing album goes. You would bet your last pound on a band such as Crystal Stilts calling a song something like Prismatic Room and Verdant Gaze; sure enough, here they are in all their retro gory glory. It makes you long for a shitty bootleg of Spaceman 3 to drop onto your platter just to liven things up.

Elsewhere Townsend indulges his love of the tremolo bar on Graveyard Orbit and Spiral Transit, while Hargett’s fetish for the murkier reaches of the Flying Nun back catalogue is there for all to hear on the woeful Bright Night. It’s all a blessed relief when The City In The Sea finally dribbles to a close and the album ends.

If you want to check out a decent band with Crystal in their name then rush out and buy Crystal Castles‘ debut album. You’ll find more wit and invention on a solitary track by Ethan Kath and Alice Glass than you will on this depressingly retro and lumpen homage to a scene that wasn’t even all that back in the day.


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More on Crystal Stilts
Crystal Stilts – Nature Noir
Crystal Stilts – In Love With Oblivion
Crystal Stilts @ Luminiare, London
Crystal Stilts – Alight Of Night
Crystal Stilts @ Lexington, London