Live Music + Gig Reviews

Crystal Castles @ Astoria 2, London

14 May 2008


Crystal Castles

Crystal Castles

Are Crystal Castles the punkest band around today? Well, to ascertain that you’d need a key, a scoring system and quite possibly some kind of flip-chart. Because, well, what are the units of punk? 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 titles is, at best, pointless. At worst it’s just an attempt to generate excitement and column inches for something 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 for causing 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 Crystal Castles have in spades. Oh, and anyone who doesn’t maintain that punk artists had dedication has clearly 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 large cracks between the bricks upon which Crystal Castles were built, trap them on stage and they are unstoppable: car alarm-cross-Super Mario-slaughter aural assault delivered with uncontrolled aggression and a glorious fuck-you attitude.

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

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

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

Having said that, even with a shaky start, even with a set which doesn’t maintain the inexplicable can’t-look-awayness of previous encounters, Crystal Castles are more exciting then teasing a doberman in the nude. Alice Practice is delivered from half way up the drum kit, sounding as urgent and as dangerous as someone setting fire to your leg, Crimewave ricochets around the Astoria 2 like an 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 triumphantly balanced. Go and see the punkest band in the world before the man brings them down.


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