Friday, August 12, 2011

Review: Crystal Antlers: "Two-Way Mirror"

Crystal Antlers, Two-Way Mirror, Recreation Ltd., 2011

There's an air of desperation that emanates from Two-Sided Mirror, the sophomore full length effort from Long Beach, CA's Crystal Antlers. From the chaotic expulsion of sound that kicks off the opener "Jules' Story", Mirror careens and caterwauls through thirty four minutes of post psychedelic blank-core, shivering and shaking with the a sort of drug addled spirituality that's at once horrifying and infectious. It's like the whole album is chasing after something, reaching and grasping for an object dangling just out of reach that scrapes against the fingertips and bounces away frustratingly into the dark as the band is trying everything they can think of to reach it. As a result the album is disjointed and disconnected, full of false starts and incomplete ideas, a mix of genres and influences that sees Fugazi, Converge, Dead Meadow, and Arcade Fire all turning to say, "Wait. What?". It's a miasma, a complex trigonometry question trying to read basic poetry while pieces of all sorts of things fly all over the place in distraction. And every song has at least ten seconds of absolute brilliance rattling around inside of it, but it's wrapped around a smoky deception that's short of breath: these guys don't have it all figured out, though everyone was hoping they did.

And that's the great fury of the day - the new album was supposed to be so much more. But maybe we see the trees and not the forest. Maybe we've been looking for lipstick and tight leather and are disgusted to find cracked lips and pajama pants and a hand outstretched for spare change, and when the band sounds exactly like 764-Hero or any of our other indie faves from ten years ago ("Fortune Telling") we get upset and push them and parts of ourselves away. A lot of critics have been saying that this album is missing something, criticizing the instrumental interludes ("Way Out") as superfluous, some even hinting at a sophomore jinx. I hate to get personal, but I don't agree. I think that this is where Crystal Antlers needs to be - honest and true, showing both their genius and the pretension and "everything I do is fucking awesome" swagger that comes with genius and I do not think that there are any accidents in Mirror. In fact, I think that everything about this album is carefully planned out and I think that it is a great album, essential in many ways, but not for the reasons that the members of Crystal Antlers probably think it is. I've said that Mirror is an album of desperation, an experiment in reaching and trying to touch things that might or might not be real. And it could be that what Crystal Antlers are chasing their own tail. Or it could be that the band is grasping at the ultimate secrets that rock and roll still has hidden away. Either way, the next album should be amazing.

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