Two weeks ago at Osheaga I saw Crystal Castles perform with Edith Frances on vocals. It was the first time I had seen them without Alice Glass so I was a little bit skeptical.
For all of their sketchiness, when Crystal Castles consisted of Alice Glass and Ethan Kath (starting late, completely no showing, reportedly being disasters back stage, etc.) and they were on, they were ON.
I had already enjoyed the latest Crystal Castles’ release Amnesty (I) with Frances on vox more than Crystal Castles (iii). Maybe on par with (ii) in my opinion. At the live show I was pleasantly surprised with how much energy Edith brought to her performance. I was also impressed that she managed to kind of find her own thing within the realm of the Crystal Castles’ “vibe”.
A big piece of the Crystal Castles live performance is that the duo always looks like they’re on the verge of having a bad trip, steering the show like an out of control big-rig fishtailing down a rain slicked highway. Without imitating Glass, Frances managed to find an onstage persona that fit the theme.
It was cool. So I put my own personal (whatever that’s worth) stamp of approval on the “new” Crystal Castles. I like the album, and I liked them live.
Now it’s Alice’s turn.
A lot was said during the departure of Glass from Crystal Castles and it mostly revolved around Glass feeling stifled creatively. There was a “he said, she said” about who wrote the lyrics and arranged the vocal melodies, with both members seemingly taking credit for those elements in various interviews.
So here we are, 3 years after Glass’ left Crystal Castles and Alice has finally released a collection of music.
I had already heard “Without Love” when it came out last week and my response was almost immediately “uh oh”. I was not a fan of the high-pitched vocals and the melody was entirely forgettable.
Having just listened to the entire EP I can say that the regrettable adjective “forgettable” applies to the entire thing. I am right now sitting at my desk and actively trying to remember a single tune or chorus from 6 songs that I just listened to and I cannot. That’s not a good sign.
Glass made a big deal about how “dark” she wanted to be with her voice and persona, but the high-pitched squeaking that is employed for most of the EP is sort of the polar opposite. It doesn’t sound dark, it sounds whiney and pathetic.
Most of the lyrics come off as teen girl breakup poetry. Maybe I’m projecting the events of the Crystal Castles situation, but it’s hard not to think that some of these lyrics are directed at Kath. It starts out right away on “Without Love”:
“Am I worth it or am I worthless?
And will I ever figure it out?
Sold myself to him”
“How are you gonna lie about me now?
I see you watching me from underground
Was I a stray just waiting to be found?”
The next 6 tracks seem to consistantly be Alice bemoaning some righteous wrong doing at the hands of a mysterious manipulative liar.
I mean, write what you know I guess. I don’t think anyone who has read about or seen firsthand the dysfunctional nature of the band back in the day would be surprised to know that those experiences left some emotional damage on both parties.
Unfortunately, even if it came from an honest and “true” place, the songs just don’t deliver.
The EP was produced by Jupiter Keyes (formerly of HEALTH). HEALTH was at their best cranking out droning, hammering tracks that were almost primal in their intensity. Somehow, the former lead singer of Crystal Castles collaborating with a former member of HEALTH and trying to make a “dark” album just totally missed the mark. This isn’t dark. It’s whiney pop.
It’s a shame.
Alice also announced a tour, with many dates having her open for Marilyn Manson.
Not sure if she can play for more than around 20 minutes though with only 7 songs in her solo repertoire. I doubt she’ll play any Crystal Castles tracks. Or maybe she will? Would be great drama.
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Keith does all sorts of things here on 9to5.cc, he works with the other founders on 9to5 (illustrated), co-hosts our two podcasts: The 9to5 Entertainment System and Go Plug Yourself and blogs here as The Perspicacious Geek.