Richard Braddock 27/08/2008
I think it's fair to say that Crystal Castles are not a band to recommend to your Grandmother. To the uninitiated, their sound is akin to the gnarled mutant offspring of a Commodore 64 & a malfunctioning Gameboy. Still, since I've always been a fan of that combination, I was more than happy to go along to see what that conconction could possibly hold live.
If you'd arrived for ballads or indie guitar twang, you were about to be disappointed. If however, you were willing to give keyboards and computers a chance, Crystal Castles are one of the more rewarding 8-bit experiences you can have. Jammed with layered synth and samples, intertwined with the harsh and sometimes melancholy cries of Alice Glass, they strike quite a unique sound, in a genre which arguably doesn't exactly lend itself very well to definition.
Whilst the night's frivolities didn't include stage-diving à la Glasto, Alice Glass' trademark moves held the imagination of the crowd well enough. In some cases, a little too well, as the exuberance of youth caused a good 5 or 6 members of the faithful to mount the stage in traditional adolescent fashion.
Though Crystal Castles were more than competent, and tight as you would expect a band that's been touring for this long to be, for me, they lacked that special something - although the inclusion of a human drummer was a more than welcome percussive element. A live experience is always going to be hard when playing this type of music. It relies not on improvisation and subtle change, but more on how much of a frenzy the tunes can muster and how much of that can be consistently carried through the night. Opening with a couple of new tracks didn't help matters, and the crowd only truly began to revel when the trademark opening Alice Practice beeps and screams flared into life. Air War also proved a big hit as expected.
Still, the main bugbear of the night was the set length. Call me old fashioned, but a band with a full album under their belt, a raft of cover songs and remixes, and a new album on the way should be putting on a show in the region of ninety minutes as opposed to the fifty or so (at best) that were served up.