Shattered Glass: Crystal Castles: The defining moments of a chaotic band

Playing on crutches, writing anti-anthems - if this is the end of Crystal Castles, it’s been explosive.

Plenty have already come out claiming that Crystal Castles is still very much an active project, despite Alice Glass’ departure (on 8th October). The latter fronted the project, bringing an unassuming lack of restraint to a scatterbrained backing that ranged from chiptune to witch house. Sometimes it sounded like Kath had extracted every devilish flavour from the mid-‘00s, shoved the collective extremes into a melting pot, before seeing the thing reach boiling point, no shits given as to the repercussions.

Glass’ closing statement suggested that Crystal Castles was over. But this was only on her terms. She also knowingly called the band’s followers “my fans” when referring to her future solo career. Kath’s steady silence says more than a formal statement, and given recent comments from the band’s manager, this project isn’t dead and buried. There’s no denying however that Glass brought the madness to life. She was at the forefront of the pair’s defining moments, as will be discussed below.

If Crystal Castles is truly over, it marks the last ember fading out from a post-2005 blitz on the senses, with gadget-munching bands laying waste to convention in one giant pack. It says a lot that Klaxons - joint-heads of the movement, “new rave” and onwards, now a very different band to the mid-‘00s pill-guzzlers - issued an “RIP” response in the immediate aftermath to Glass’ tweets. Other comments ranged from a casual scoff to an “I thought they split ages ago”, ie. when the glowstick-addled march came to a miserable halt. The strength of Glass and Kath is in how they evolved into the very definition of chaos on stage. On 2012 album ‘III” it sounded like they were just beginning to perfect the pitch of their calculated scream. Things this severe tend to self-destruct instead of petering out, though.

Below, DIY runs through the songs and the sets that this bonkers project will always be remembered for.

Alice Practice

Few introductions come more sinister than the distant “Hi!” from Glass that opens ‘Alice Practice’. It’s easy to imagine a Chucky-style killer doll turning its head 360 and welcoming in the listener, especially given the thick slabs of nasty bass that accompany the terrifying greeting.

In truth, this was just Glass getting used to a studio environment. The record button was pressed without her knowing, and scratchy, barely-conscious vocal takes are similarly of-the-moment. Hence why this debut single is such a grizzly, saw-toothed triumph. Anything could happen. There’s some semblance of structure, but it’s never the focus. Glass introduces herself as a force of nature, a terrifying vocal presence that defies the punk movement Kath initially discovered her through.

As the story goes, once things began to pick up for the project and label offers flooded in, it was only here that Glass found out the track had been recorded. Up to then, she’s lost contact with her bandmate in between recording the song and it being released on Merok Records. Don’t rule out Kath extracting demo takes and offcuts from the past ten years into a future Crystal Castles release - although the fallout from that might be slightly more ill-tempered.

Crystal Crutches

Live shows became just as much a part of Crystal Castles’ reputation - and enigma - as the songs themselves. At 2010’s Latitude Festival, Glass was reported to have punched an audience member after being groped. She then spat at the same person, shouting “You touch my tits, I kick you in the fucking head.”

Their Glastonbury 2008 set was even more notorious. A John Peel Stage performance was curtailed after security issues and fears for the own band’s safety. It took five years for them to return, after nearly being pulled offstage back in 2008, and even then, Glass was reported to be suffering from food poisoning. It’s difficult to remember anything on Worthy Farm since that year being quite so on the brink of all-out carnage. That’s without mentioning all the times they’d together trash a stage and piss off veery promoter going (see Glass’ confrontation with a roadie in Las Vegas back in 2008, above).

If there’s one live moment that sums the duo up best, it was in 2011, when despite doctors’ orders and a hefty pair of crutches, Alice Glass took to five months world tour dates while barely being able to stand. After hospitalisation in Tokyo, the run continued, out of sheer neglect for common sense. “Maybe she’ll be doing it in a wheelchair,” Kath joked to Australia’s The Vine. You can almost imagine the two of them seeing this broken ankle as an opportunity to cause an even bigger stir. There’s no such thing as an easy ride for these two, and it’s almost as if they crave it.

Not In Love

Easily Crystal Castles’ most famous song, ‘Not In Love’ again carries an unpredictable story that sums up the band’s ethos, ranging from a “that’ll do” to “fuck it, see what happens”. Robert Smith’s vocals make the track, but these were recorded in raw demo form because Kath and Glass decided to cancel the studio time. Nothing in their back-catalogue sounds nearly as pure or destined for the giant festival stages it eventually ended up soundtracking, but this was just Smith in barely-edited form, untouched. The cover of Platinum Blonde’s 1983 original ranks as one of the best of the past decade, a crazed re-creation of a song that looked to be dead and buried - similar to how these two helped re-enliven Gameboy soundtracks, crazy antics and anything else they could get their hands on.

For more on the Crystal Castles split story, head here.


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