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Crystal Antlers - Crystal Antlers

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Artist: Crystal Antlers

Album: Crystal Antlers

Label: Touch and Go

Review date: Oct. 6, 2008

“It’s hard to believe that something this dark, intense and screamy would emerge from Long Beach, California, home of…” Nah. “In an increasingly fragmented age, Crystal Antlers refuse to be classified, to dumb down their intellect or numb out their passions, and that’s what makes…” Fuck that. “Yes, Crystal Antlers is a shitty, shitty, shitty name for a band, but…” Ah, nuts.

There are new bands (at least for awhile, right?) that, at first encounter, leave me at a loss for descriptions beyond superlatives. And that feels good. It feels good to sound like a dumbass, talking about something I like. Crystal Antlers fit the bill. They’re loud. They’re super-proficient, for what its worth. The production credit for Ikey Morris of the Mars Volta is probably setting off a lot of prog alarms. But Crystal Antlers play an entirely different sort of rock, one grounded in the passions of ‘60s garage. In this sort of rock, complexity and a buck will get you a scratch-off ticket (no one cares, unless they’re jerking off to charts, in which case they’re envious), but Crystal Antlers back up their technical wizardry, gear-shifting “dynamics” and genre-jumping nerdery with power, passion and a wicked sense of humor. (Their wit is more apparent on stage, but it seeps through their recordings, too.) They mix high-speed sludge, thunderstorm soul and heavy psych into something not easily pegged to any rock dogma.

The six wildly different members don’t seem to be pursuing one agreed-upon vision. Rather, they seem to blend all of their strengths, and to be incredibly good at doing it. It’s intricately structured music with the open-ended spirit of improv. In the middle of the whirlwind, singer Jonny Bell screams a relentless, impenetrable scream that would befit a hardcore band. He functions more as an instrument than as an ego. So it’s cool that you can’t understand the lyrics.

“Until the Sun Dies (Part 2)” commences with feedback, a sneering bass hook, a flood of squelchy organ noise and a full rumble of percussion, going about as fast as they can without losing each other. The speed often changes, but the noise and intensity never let up. “Vexation” shows that fist-pumping punk can sound raw and ornery and still be fuck-all complex. “A Thousand Eyes” shifts from an epileptic 6/8 verse to a gospely 4/4 chorus, and sounds way too pissed to notice how clever it is. The closer, “Parting Song for the Torn Sky,” is a long, slow howl-and-burn. This 24-minute debut has a lot of “promise” to go with its power, but if that scorcher is the last I hear of the Antlers, I’ll be more than impressed.

By Emerson Dameron

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