Live Review

Crystal Stilts, The Arches, Glasgow

There is a thin line between being cool and aloof and just being distracted.

Band names seem to come in cycles these days, it can only be a matter of time before Black Crystal Panda Wolf hit the scene. In the meantime, one of a wave of unrelated outfits flirting with Methamphetamine in their name are Brooklyn’s Crystal Stilts, touring in support of their forthcoming second album ‘In Love With Oblivion’.

There’s an almost comforting familiarity to their brand of fuzz soaked, reverb heavy maudlin downer pop: music which takes as its benchmarks The Jesus & Mary Chain’s early work; the whacked out nonchalance of the Velvet Underground and the 1960s psychedelia of the Nuggets Box Set.

Singer Brad Hargett is going for the beatnik vibe tonight, with decidedly un-rock ’n’ roll knitwear and keeping his lyrics indecipherable. Kyle Forester plays nostalgic sounding keyboards while guitarist JB Townsend sports a Brian Jones haircut and twangs some unashamedly retro downbeat garage sounds.

The Arches is a brick-lined cellar which can turn into an echo chamber making it tricky to achieve the necessary immediacy in the atmosphere. The stage is a little too far away from the crowd and the band are playing into the void after overdoing the dry ice. The surfeit of smoke and the lack of momentum makes for a slightly restive crowd and the band don’t seem to have much energy to feed into the room.

This set is nowhere near as electrifying as their earlier Glasgow show at The Captain’s Rest, a much more intimate venue. Technical issues with the organ amp kill the mood and the five-piece never regain their confidence. The result is a lackadaisical performance, lacking the drive and urgency to impress.

Having found a formula, Crystal Stilts never quite dare to break their own mould, with no mention of their own song titles it’s tricky to pick out tracks and there are no real stand outs until they play a cover of the Blue Orchids’ ‘Low Profile’. They take a relatively obscure tack by the Manchester post punk band, which featured ex-members of The Fall, and manage to make it even more dispassionate than the original.

The band seem bored or hung-over, or just off their game. They manage to get a decent drone on for the last track, but when Forester reiterates his apologies for the broken amp, it becomes obvious that it’s really thrown them. The encore eventually lifts the mood and they play a track from the new album – had they played this mid-set it would have injected some much needed spark. There is a thin line between being cool and aloof and just being distracted. Crystal Stilts survived with their cool intact but tonight left me feeling flat rather than inspired.

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