Album Review: Crystal Antlers – ‘Two-Way Mirror’

Punk and psych mix together and the results are wonderful

What better symbol of DIY self-reliance than the tourvan? Ever since the Merry Pranksters painted a school bus in psychedelic colours and burned out east to introduce the squares of middle America to this new thing called LSD, piling into a cramped vehicle and hitting the freeway has been a key ritual of the US counterculture. With their Raymond Pettibon artwork and pedigree on punk label Touch And Go, [a]Crystal Antlers[/a] would seem to be rockers of a Black Flag vintage.

But the news these Long Beach long-hairs have toured the country in a vegetable-powered vehicle connects them to an earlier, earthier ethos. We’re talking punks and hippies. It’s 2011 – who said you had to choose? [b]‘Two-Way Mirror’[/b] captures this collision. Their impulse on [b]‘By The Sawkill’[/b] and [b]‘Séance’[/b] is towards a raggedy post-hardcore with echoes of weirdo punk groups past – think [a]Les Savy Fav[/a], [a]Meat Puppets[/a] and …[a]Trail Of Dead[/a], all hoarse vocals, flailing drums and guitars in a state of distress. What’s curious is the way they infuse this chaos with strange prettiness.

On [b]‘Always Afraid’[/b], organist Cora Foxx makes like [a]The Doors[/a]’ Ray Manzarek, drizzling the riffs in groovy Mellotron before a free-jazz saxophone turns up and things get really silly; [b]‘Summer Solstice’[/b], meanwhile, mints a style NME can only describe as ‘tropical Sonic Youth’. The final ingredient is a pair of slowies, [b]‘Fortune Telling’[/b] and [b]‘Knee Deep’[/b], which sound like ’60s psych cuts recovering from a blow to the head. All in all, a weird brew, set to confound anyone who likes their music to fit neatly in a box. Still, it’s hard not to admire these out-there dudes – still beholden to no-one, still chugging around leaving the odour of Brussels sprouts in their wake.

Louis Pattison

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Record label: Recreation Ltd
Release date: 11 Jul, 2011