When Crystal Castles first announced its acrimonious split from founding member and band figurehead Alice Glass, public opinion largely focused around the future of the abrasive noise outfit rather than the singer herself. Without their feral flag bearer, would Crystal Castles be anything more than one angry man with a sampler, trying desperately to relive the Skins-affiliated glory years? Alice, in all her mad-eyed, iconic brilliance, you sensed would be fine.
Of course, in reality, it was actually Ethan Kath (he of angry sampler fame) who wrote the bulk of CC’s wares (musically, at least). And so he roped in a new front woman and carried on merrily while Alice fell into the background. Until this point, in the three years since their split, Alice has only released one song.
Now, however, she’s back with second single ‘Without Love’ - and it’s a surprisingly self-lacerating offering from the former firebrand. “Am I worth it or am I worthless?/ And will I ever figure it out?”,” begins the singer in the kind of breathy, ethereal style that’s unrecognisable from ‘Alice Practice’, way back when. Written alongside HEALTH’s Jupiter Keyes, it’s musically like Crystal Castles pushed through an introspective Evanescence filter (make of that what you will), but it’s clearly in the lyrics that Alice has poured her focus.
Filled with images of suppression and discomfort (“Is it hidden beneath the surface?/ Sew my lips so it won’t come out… Can I suffer? I won’t make a sound”), it wouldn’t take a psychologist to link the track’s morbid musings to the singer’s previous statements on the depressive, “deeply miserable” break up of her former band. And, as a document of a dark time, it succeeds reasonably well. Whether Alice can come out the other side and begin again properly, however, still remains to be seen.