Crystal Antlers - Two-Way Mirror - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Crystal Antlers - Two-Way Mirror

by Al Brown Rating:4 Release Date:2011-08-01

The re-emergence of the lo-fi aesthetic in the last five years has been slightly perplexing to those with even the scantest knowledge of music technology. Bands queue up to tell us that their cheap, tape-hissy recordings are that way by necessity, not design - that having no money still means recording on a second-hand 4-track cassette machine of dubious build-quality. This has, quite rightly, been viewed as disingenuous by some. As cheap recording equipment from the 80s and 90s becomes fetishised, its value on eBay goes up, meanwhile, cheap digital recording has been within the reach of the bedroom musician for years now.

Of course, disingenuousness aside, an awful lot of music does sound great all fucked-up and scratchy: from the moment Dave Davies took a razor-blade to his amp before recording 'You Really Got Me', the primal, rebellious nature of distortion has helped simple three-chord songs become filthy rock'n'roll goliaths. In this current trend, reverb and distortion have broken away from their traditional homes in punk, garage and shoegaze, and infiltrated more experimental music: for example the druggy AOR fever-dreams of Ariel Pink, or the whole chillwave scene.

For a band such as Crystal Antlers though, a band that loves a bit of bombast, lo-fi is a hindrance - hobbling the killer hooks so they never really get a chance to escape. The same goes for the lyrics: very few are audible, and when they are, they are simply fragments: possibly meaningful, possibly meaningless. As Morrissey once whinged: it says nothing to me about my life.

Crystal Antlers are an LA band who make fairly ambitious, identifiably west coast rock songs that have a lot in common with their contemporaries, Smith Westerns. But whereas Smith Westerns were last seen losing the fuzz and releasing an unashamedly commercial pop album, Crystal Antlers are still in love with that 'playing in a small, shit venue' sound. Their songs are busy and muddy; thumping drums compete with over-loud bass guitar, droning organ and cheesy guitar riffing: in the end nothing wins out, it's just a bit of a mess.

Opener 'Jules' Story' sets the tone expertly: different time signatures bash into each other excitedly; there's a tumbling piano-riff and Television-style lead guitar and the bass is muddy and overbearing. It's just such a damn mess, and it's a shame too, because there are lots of nice hooks in here, but none of them have any room to breathe.

Every other song is kind of the same: barrelling along to god-knows-where with plenty of enthusiasm but little to distinguish it from the last. The only quiet moments come at the very beginning and end of songs where guitar feedback is occasionally allowed to linger. The rest of the time you've just got to choke down this thickest of prog-punk soups and try to like it.

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