Death disco + party-startin' punk + sunshine pop + widescreen majesty = a perfect opening night. Carling Academy, Oxford (May 2)
New noise. It’s not a description you could level at many bands. You could lock The Pigeon Detectives in a room with a supercomputer, a box of screaming goblins and an orchestra of Ghanaian neck-trumpets and they’d still come out with gumboot rock. Well, screw those indie zombies, tonight a roomful of people aged from 13-40 is united beneath the esoteric umbrella of a digital maelstrom. If ever there was proof that People Like Clever Shit And Not Crap, it’s the transformation of Crystal Castles into pop stars. “When we formed we wanted to piss people off,” smiles CC synth dilettante Ethan backstage after the show, while NME and beautiful harpy Alice comb a trashed backstage room for booze. “We thought we were making such weird music that no-one would ever like it. But…”
But instead they’ve been adopted by everyone with a brain, made NME cover stars and are destroying venues alongside their New Noise brethren across the country. It’s been another electric night for a band whose happy coexistence with their tourmates is enough to make a man overlook The Wombats and cry with gratitude for the times.
It’s only White Lies’ fifth live showing, beneath a twisting bill, but they announce themselves with black eyes and thick lungs as a monster of their own creation. One thing unites the fans who’ve never seen the band and the curious industry types at the back: dropped jaws. As ‘Unfinished Business’ marches the set towards its euphoricclimax, the subtlety of the band’s Tears For Feardrop Explodes roar has floored a filling room. Harry McVeigh’s remorseless growl and tragic words, holocaust drums, crystal synths and remarkable, thick-blooded guitar inspire the front row into their own dramatics, bouncing and swooning like hammy thesps.
The drama isn’t quite the same for Team Waterpolo though. Sure, much of the room is throwing limbs to their cheery indie, but not in quite the same way. This is sunshine indie pop made by the unfathomably uncool for people who’ve drunk so much cider they don’t think baggy trousers suck. Fortunately, this room is pissed and right now all they want to do is shout: “Team Waterpolo! Team Waterpolo!” over songs built from Abba’s DNA. It’s hard to dismiss the optimistic jive of ‘Problematic Girls’, or the wide-eyed glory of a song about not wanting it to rain in Preston.
Pre-show, Friendly Fires singer Ed Macfarlane was scanning the venue for beer, claiming that he was “shit without it”. Obviously he found a bottle of something, because under the lascivious stares of everyone in the venue, Ed, with liquor lapping his walls, is frontman throughout. Slice him in half and written in his very guts is ‘I am a golden god’. He dives on and off the stage, penetrating and invigorating the crowd and, beneath his thrusts, even the girls have erections. Gone from his band’s set is the shadowy beauty of single ‘Paris’ – tonight everything is delivered with the maniac power of !!! screwing a volcano. These are three men who’d rip off their eyelids rather than sleep, a wall of joy tumbling across Oxford.
Then, Crystal Castles. As Ethan Kath strolls on to the blank stage caped in his hoody the room bursts – this crowd want their faces melted by a billion watts of ray-gun punk. As that pointillist barrage of bleeps zip through the air forming the ascendant wave of new song ‘Exoskeleton’, Alice Glass bounds deer-like onstage unswayed by the weight of 2008 on her shoulders. Part-Richie Edwards, part-Nikita, part-cobra, she whirls her skinny limbs at a crowd agog. Flipping between a shrieking whisper and a gargoyle’s howl, she dives, she dances, she attacks the crowd. With every song reimagined as a punk banger there’s little room for breath for those assembled. As the band leave a chant begins: ‘Crystal Castles! Crystal Castles!’ A room braying for this deranged genius? Jesus… you gotta love this generation.