Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Crystal Stilts

After the first-ever Crystal Stilts show in December 2003, Hamish Kilgour of New Zealand band the Clean approached them and said: "You guys were fantastic, the most interesting of the night — it reminded me of when I went to England in '83 and bought the first Jesus & Mary Chain single." Could there possibly be a better start to a career? As Stilts bassist Andy Adler announced, after sharing the anecdote when we met the band, "it's all downhill from there." Having endured a Job-like start to 2008 (all of their gear stolen — wait, make that impounded), just a few weeks ago the Stilts were confronting whether they should even continue being a band, a notion all the more absurd after you listen to these seven songs — the bulk of the Brooklyn foursome's recordings to date. Sure, Hamish probably overstated it a bit — who knows, though, we weren't there — but there is something in these dingy recordings of minimalist post-punk pop that supersedes pretty much everything else we have heard in a long, long time. The two best songs are "Crippled Croon" and "Converging in the Quiet," their sullen, confident melodies shining brightest, their fidelity sounding the most like something post-Edison in the history of recorded sound. "Crippled Croon" is mush-mouthed and loose, an upper-register guitar line recalling everything great about Echo and the Bunnymen, early Cure and that whole bag, with Brad Hargett's vocals slackadaisical to a ridiculous — and endearing — degree. "Converging" is the better-written song, the little post-chorus instrumental bit really nice and cinematic, the whole thing extremely well put-together in a way that — and we say this with love and affection — some of their other songs are not. "Converging" strikingly intersects Hargett's buried-alive vocals, JB Townsend's shrugging guitars and Adler's gesturing bass in some awesome heroin-spike harmony. Though it didn't start out as such, it's now by far my favorite Crystal Stilts moment. There are others, too, including the really rough demo for "Through the Floor" that we drunkenly convinced the band to include (thanks guys!). Somehow, the rougher-sounding the better with these kids, and in a way that goes beyond the whole warehouses & lofts & sirens & streets & broken windows & peeling walls Brooklyn fetish. Farther down 'neath the hipster mythos, reverb topography and the band's rough treatment are amazing songs by four smart and funny people who we couldn't be prouder to support. You're gonna love this.
emusic review

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