CRYSTAL CASTLES at the Sound Academy, Saturday, June 8. Rating: NNN
As indie music fans basked in the hometown-band group-hug nostalgia of 2003-era Broken Social Scene at Fort York on Saturday, Toronto's eminent feel-bad electro-punks, Crystal Castles, held court at Sound Academy.
Since catching their big break on MySpace and subsequently courting blog controversy with no-shows, copyright violations and minor acts of violence, it's becoming a bit harder for Alice Glass and Ethan Kath to play the enfant terribles roles they've cultivated for so long. For starters, their brand of dim-basement, raccoon-eyed dark trance has inspired a whole generation of crossover synth-goths, including show opener Tarantula X and most of the roster of his Toronto label, Pretty Pretty Records, who hosted the late-night after-party (including some "spe(CC)ial guests").
They haven't let their old habits die completely, though. Word had it they cancelled all photo passes just hours before the shwow, leaving most non-print-based media shit out of luck. It would have been nigh-impossible to grab a clear shot anyway. Between smoke machines and rave-worthy strobe lights, Alice Glass was just a magenta-haired blur of prowling energy, occasionally glimpsed in the cherry of a lit cigarette, her modulated screech equally unintelligible.
But what was shocking eight years ago is starting to feel like old hat. Sure, she jumped into the crowd and sang from atop the shoulders of the front-row fans, but she also had her own personal security guard to hoist her up. And yes, she stepped on a few heads to get there, but, at least according to the ones on Twitter, those fans stood in front of the stage for precisely that reason. They expected to be trampled. They wanted it.
So maybe it's not shocking that their most recent album, Crystal Castles III, is mellower than the last, easing up on the cacophonous noise and focusing on their chillier "pretty" tunes. Fittingly, their more melodic tracks and their covers of Platinum Blonde's Not In Love and HEALTH's Crimewave, garnered the biggest response, but Glass performed them with the same angst-fuelled, punk-inspired energy, jumping atop the bass drum and hitting the cymbal with her fist.