Crystal Stilts - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds (24/02/2009)

Allan MacLean | Thursday, 09 April 2009

Crystal Stilts - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds (24/02/2009)

One of the pitfalls of acting like you don't give a damn when you are a support act is that it becomes fairly difficult for an audience, who are less familiar with your material, to give a damn either. Tonight's support act, The Manhattan Love Suicides, are quite simply relentless in their quest to convey their nonchalance.

Clearly diversity isn't what this band aims for, with their drummer creating the least possible variation from a minimal three-drum setup, and the guitar being smothered to the point of pointlessness with distortion from effects pedals. These major niggles aside, you can't fault the band for their consistency. Tunes follow one another with barely a beat between them, but if pounding fuzz-pop with scant regard for space or variation is your thing then they are certainly a success.

It's hard to tell whether a dodgy soundman could have a disparaging effect on a band so in love with cacophony. However, as Crystal Stilts begin to play, this notion is blown right out of the water.

The Brooklyn quartet's recorded output revels in its blurred edges and obscured vocals, yet tonight their sound has a remarkable clarity. The bass punches through the mix, keyboards are distinct at all times and the subtle nuances of Brad Hargett's vocals shine through the dark atmosphere that the band creates. Sounding like the bastard lovechild of Dick Dale and Bernard Sumner, guitarist JB Townsend propels tunes such as 'Departure' and 'Crystal Stilts' in a direction that threatens to lift the band to new planes of excitement. His enthusiasm is only matched by the chirpy demeanour of touring keyboard player Kyle Forrester, and in turn is contradicted by Hargett's awkward, half-embarrassed shuffle behind his microphone stand.

There is no doubt that Crystal Stilts pack a solid set of tunes, but with such an understated performance persona and their blatant penchant for nostalgia tangible at tonight's gig, at times it looks like they want to be anywhere else but here. Still, they can take advantage of the fact that those near the front tonight either share their passion for reviving the past or simply can't smell the stench of pale imitation of the band's long defunct idols.

Rating: 2/5