Live Music Reviews

Crystal Castles @ Astoria 2, London

14 May 2008


Are Crystal Castles the punkest band around today?

Well, to ascertain that you’d need a key, ascoring system and quite possibly some kind of flip-chart. Because, well, what are the units ofpunk? Is one gram of Sid Vicious’ heroin laden phlegm equal to half a billion Avril Lavigne records?

No doubt, it’s a pointless question. The whole notion of labelling stuff with these arbitrary titlesis, at best, pointless. At worst it’s just an attempt to generate excitement and column inches forsomething which is inherently dull, and inherently undeserving.

However, for a generation who love answering pointless questions, and not least because it’s fun and amusing and handy forcausing arguments between total strangers, you can make a pretty strong case to suggest they are.

For a start, all of the good things which punk came to represent, the DIY ethic, the antagonistic,confrontational mindset,the complete and utter dedication to the cause, are attributes that CrystalCastles have in spades. Oh, and anyone who doesn’t maintain that punk artists had dedication hasclearly never stuck a pin through their nose.

So far, on a career trajectory which is doing a fair job making petrol price rises look shallow,you’d have struggled to find many disagreeing. Live at least. For while the album showed some largecracks between the bricks upon which Crystal Castles were built, trap them on stage and they areunstoppable: car alarm-cross-Super Mario-slaughter aural assault delivered with uncontrolledaggression and a glorious fuck-you attitude.

An attitude which could, maybe, possibly, be described as just a little bit punk? There’s somethingrefreshing, something life affirming about that attitude. It can’t help but remind you of the sheerinate goodness in pissing off a large section of society. Because the music scene has for the pastChrist-knows how long wallowed in the foul craptulance spread by middleweight indie-bands who do theboring, safe, predictable thing.

But can it last? After a while does it not simply become an act? Every you see Ethan Kath , hood upbehind his bank of Atari powered electronica, every time dervish-in-Converse Alice Glass endangerersa member of staff or member of the public, it steps ever close to toppling over into parody. Lessthe unrestrained actions of a pair of outsiders, more the predefined, expected behaviour of circusperformers.

Look at Iggy Pop. Thirty years ago he couldn’t have been more dangerous if you coated himwith a thick layer of asbestos. Now he’s a man who needs a new hip trying to have sex with anamplifier. Hence the precarious position Crystal Castles are now in. Tonight, headlining their largest tour todate, and solidly encased as one of the band du jours’, it showed the first signs ofhappening. Tonight, at times, Crystal Castles were *gulp*, professional, and *double gulp*, a littletired.

Having said that, even with a shaky start, even with a set which doesn’t maintain the inexplicablecan’t-look-awayness of previous encounters, Crystal Castles are more exciting then teasing adoberman in the nude. Alice Practice is delivered from half way up the drumkit, sounding as urgentand as dangerous as someone setting fire to your leg, Crimewave ricochets around the Astoria 2 likea 8-bit pinball and Alice is still a heroine in waiting, flinging herself into a crowd happy to accept her.

Maybe the tightrope is getting narrower. But for the moment, Crystal Castles are still triumphantlybalanced. Go and see the punkest band in the world before the man brings them down.


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