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LIVE! – Crystal Stilts

August 8, 2011 by  

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LIVE! – Crystal Stilts

ARTIST: Crystal Stilts
SUPPORT: Last Cavalry, This Many Boyfriends
VENUE, TOWN: Madame Jo-Jo’s, London, UK
DATE: 2nd August 2011

FIVE WORD REVIEW: Jekyll & Hyde Sound Divide


In the Lair of the Crystal Stilts

In which we experience some music in the small but irrepressibly cool Madame Jo-Jos.

The night opens under Last Cavalry, a band from that peculiar stock that is Indie folk. They seem a bit young and nervous and the old trencher in you will be whispering they have more than a hint of cannon fodder to them. The vocalist, however, does whip out both an Uke and an accordion at select points during the performance, which means he accrues cool points with the all demented resolve of a singularity powered vacuum cleaner.

They lead on to This Many Boyfriends, a pack of cheerful, cheeky chappie surf punks from Leeds, as incongruous as that may sound. They’re fierce, fast and hit like a club after the laid back melodies of their precursors , while treating us to stereotypically loud and gregarious stage presence. The experience was only slightly marred by a harrowing sound bite from a nearby camera man “Oh my God. It looks like Hanson ten years after.” Cruelly accurate.

By this point Jo-Jo’s is pretty much packed out to the gunwales and the nasal twang of American accents ring out from the audience, testimony to Crystal Stilt’s fan appeal back on their native shores. So it’s pretty good that we’ve finally arrived at THE LAIR OF THE CRYSTAL STILTS.

The treasures that await us? Riveting instrumental performance. Rich, layered, textured and savage, it’s a melancholic, psychedelic, psychopathic fusion. Whether it’s light and burbling, harsh and imperious, or simply thrashed out with a brutality that borders on the perversity, each segment ripping out notes as crisp and arresting as skinny dipping on the Solstice. It’s like they couldn’t drop a duff note if they tried, not even when Cooke thrashes his cymbal so hard the arm falls off.
Notably, Shake the Shackles is delivered like the absolute corker it is, while Black Sun in particular is a proper soul shaker – it’s opening notes have enough ceremony and grandeur to invest an entire imperial dynasty.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the singing.

While Hargett’s known for laid back drawl-like vocals, tonight they’re simply not up to snuff. Unclear, muted, mumbled even, it’s like they’re been slurred out by your soused Uncle during impromptu Christmas Karaoke (though at least Hargett’s came delivered sans inappropriate touching). A severe letdown, especially when compared alongside such raw instrumental power. Stage presence is lacking too, understandable from the intense playing going on, but not in relation to the anaemic vocals.  Soul, it’s something journos lack, but front-men definitely shouldn’t.

A bitter divide then – in one ear ambrosia, in the other ditch-water. Satisfied nonetheless.




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