July 5, 2011
Album Review: Crystal Antlers - 'Two-Way Mirror'
Punk and psych mix together and the results are wonderful
7 / 10
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, Crystal Antlers 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? ‘Two-Way Mirror’ captures this collision. Their impulse on ‘By The Sawkill’ and ‘Séance’ is towards a raggedy post-hardcore with echoes of weirdo punk groups past – think Les Savy Fav, Meat Puppets and …Trail Of Dead, 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 ‘Always Afraid’, organist Cora Foxx makes like The Doors’ Ray Manzarek, drizzling the riffs in groovy Mellotron before a free-jazz saxophone turns up and things get really silly; ‘Summer Solstice’, meanwhile, mints a style NME can only describe as ‘tropical Sonic Youth’. The final ingredient is a pair of slowies, ‘Fortune Telling’ and ‘Knee Deep’, 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.
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