Release Date: Oct 15, 2013
Record label: Innovative Leisure
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Garage Punk, Indie Rock, Experimental Rock, Noise Pop, Neo-Psychedelia
The Crystal Antlers' self-titled debut for L.A.'s Innovative Leisure was recorded at bassist/vocalist Jonny Bell's home studio. This set marks not only an extension of the band's garagey neo-speech roots, but an expansion into new sonic terrains using synths and drum machines, though they never dominate the basic guitar/bass/drums/organ attack; they supplement it as added noise and texture. These 11 songs reveal that this trio has become not only comfortable in the recording studio, but with one another as musicians; they are willing to push themselves into a new red zone.
With each subsequent release, Long Beach–bred Crystal Antlers have refined and reduced, grown more self-aware and gradually traded chaos for structure and coherence. One could say the band are on a general trajectory towards “maturity”…whatever that word may suggest. This is the natural tendency, an inevitability, and almost without falter induces a polarizing effect.
Crystal Antlers are difficult to pin down. To date, they've offered a couple of LPs and one EP of psych-meets-punk songs that feature Jonny Bell barking and wailing all the while. Certain tags may suit one or two of their tracks—a byzantine auxiliary-percussion psych jam here, a weirdo post-punk freak-out there—but going into their third LP, the only two words that really do them justice are “rock” and “loud.” They’ve jammed econo, taking a vegetable-oil-powered bus on tour and selling copies of their first EP on CDRs packaged in recycled brown paper bags.
Crystal Antlers used to be chimney sweepers - which apart from meaning that they can probably knock out a pretty proficient cover of Dick Van Dyke’s ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’ – is more than a little odd. But bar being a little heavier and longer, ‘Nothing Is Real’ is the same blend of scuzzy guitars and Johnny Bell’s throaty vocals that the Californian psych-rockers have been crafting since 2009’s ‘Tentacles’. Take ‘Rattlesnake’ – after a slow start, it uncoils into a screaming, thrashing chorus – before adopting a stop-start structure that’s suspense, turbulence and reptilian theme would make it the perfect soundtrack for Snakes on a Plane.
Crystal Antlers have always been a lot more normal than the general consensus gives them credit for. On their earlier releases, a fairly consistent devotion to snarling garage rock sat beneath the neo-psychedelic trappings of freaky organ and spazzy woodwinds. On the Californians’ third full-length, Nothing Is Real, they more fully embrace the straightforward aesthetic by nixing the bongos, throwing away the keys, and stripping down to guitar, bass, drums, and vocals.
According to Wikipedia, Crystal Antlers' original line-up of Kevin Stuart, Errol Davis and Jonny Bell worked together as chimney sweeps around the time of the band's formation. This is apt, because the production on their fifth LP Nothing Is Real leaves it sounding dusty, grimy, and dull, as though being played in a cold, dank, bricked-in claustrophobic hole out of sight but not quite out of mind. .
From their inception Crystal Antlers has always been a band indebted to a wall of sound that while vast, was always purposeful. They padded this wall with organs, horns and percussion that fed to their psychedelic tendencies with great ease. Through their first two releases their sound was various parts rock with pop hooks and that great DIY, garage style.