Alight of Night, the 2008 debut from Brooklyn’s Crystal Stilts, was one of the more intriguing indie releases in recent years. While one could categorize the band as garage rock, unlike the millions of bands aping the genre over the years, Crystal Stilts ignore the typical Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, and Nuggets-inspired fuzz rock template for something much more unique. Alight was full of dark and moody, but impossibly catchy, pop songs. Simple yet effective Velvet Underground style beats and early Jesus and Mary Chain distortion are key ingredients of Crystal Stilts’ sound, but the most striking element is Brad Hargett’s strangely hypnotic monotone vocals. The singing is so distant and ghostly that it sounds as if the frontman was recorded in an echo chamber. The closest approximation of his vocal style is The Damned’s Dave Vanian, when his group veered from an early punk rock sound to 1960s psych during the early 1980s on The Black Album (EMI, 1980) and Strawberries (Bronze, 1982).
Crystal Stilts’ long awaited follow-up, In Love With Oblivion, doesn’t take any drastic sonic detours from their debut, although one does immediately notice that the production is cleaner. The group shows more warmth here, too, with an upfront keyboard sound and some varied tempos. If there was a fault with Alight, it was that the material was a little too similar at times. “Sycamore Trees” opens this album with a slow building intro, as an almost surf twang blends with some groovy farfisa sounds. Old fans rest assured, though, that when Hargett’s vocals kick in, nothing has changed. The following track, “Through the Floor,” is a huge highlight. With its fuzz rock sound and catchy female backing vocals, the song is a perfect marriage of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound and early Jesus and Mary Chain or Black Tambourine. “Flying Into the Sun” conjures up some of Love’s lush atmospheres (see “Alone Again Or”) while “Silver Sun” explores a The Byrds inflection with some heavenly jangle. Another highlight, “Half A Moon,” sounds like a distant cousin of The Damned’s legendary single “Smash It Up.”
Perhaps the best track of all is “Alien Rivers.” Clocking in at over seven minutes, the song combines the best elements of 1960s psych and even a little 1980s goth with spectacular, spooky keyboards setting the mood and downright scary, almost spoken-word vocals from Hargett. Fans of the aforementioned Damned and the less excessive side of The Doors will love this. I certainly do.Visit: Crystal Stilts | Slumberland
Purchase: Insound | eMusic