In 1968, the great American science fiction writer Philip K. Dick pondered “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” to which I can only muster “Good Sir, I've not got a scooby, but I'll wager they would enjoy Crystal Castles over a pint of Castor oil. It would probably take them back to their youth as a VIC20 skipping through the fields of Silicon Valley”.
Named after '80s cartoon legend She-Ra's pad, the Canadian duo of Ethan Kath and Alice Glass have united (“together in electric dreams” probably) to bring you a modern day Atari teenage riot. They're pushing all the right buttons – controversy over alleged plagiarism, being notoriously stroppy in interviews, being an (actual) show stopper at Glastonbury and annoying critics (hurrah!) along the way.
Singer Alice has become the focal point for critics and security guards alike. In pictures she looks like the Bambi-eyed younger sister of Richey Edwards, but on stage she is possessed alternately by the feral spirit of Iggy Pop and the hunched rag doll of Emo Phillips. Either way she is impossible to ignore. If she's not careful she could become a bizarre sideshow spectacle like the Elephant Man, the Mexican wolf boy, or Jim Davidson.
Their metal machine music generally comes in two colours. In the red corner, weighing in at 250lbs, the frenzied primal dementia of 'Alice Practice' (the infamous 'demo' which escaped), 'Love & Caring' (like being punched by Robocop) and the mighty 'Courtship Dating' (scream-queen chorus). In the blue corner, the feather weight tangerine dream of 'Vanished' and 'Good Time'. It's fair to say there's more of the former.
When I turn off the record I can still hear the bleeps 'n' clicks 'n' shrieks in my brain. It's like an actual pinball wizard has taken residence 'rent-free' in my head. I don't think brain bleach will work this time. For the most part, its infectious lunacy is like overdosing on fizzy drinks then jumping up and down on your bed and then having a little lie down, all dazed and confused, and feeling a bit sick. This is mostly a good thing.
I say mostly as there are plenty of flaws in this model. As with the ambition of youth there are way too many songs – 16 of 'em. It's a shame as it would've made a much more potent ten tracker. There are times such as on 'Magic Spells' (passable eurobeat, definition of B-side) when your finger will be magnetically drawn to the skip button, only to rescued by the next track. It also noticeably drops in intensity whenever Alice exits stage left for the instrumental breaks. Plus it's sometimes frustrating not to be able to make out 99% of the treated and distorted vocals. But hey, there is eloquence in screaming too.
Like a lot of new things, Crystal Castles will be branded a gimmick and there are times when you do question their motives. However there is enough fire, feeling, fun, filth and fury to get them through to the next level. Even though theirs is a defiantly metal heart, it's hard not to cheer such shambolic, naive but impassioned pugilists. It's obviously destined to connect with the disenfranchised youth (is there any other kind?) but it's not just for kids, if you ever marvelled at Kraftwerk's 'Neon Lights' or Vangelis' 'Blade Runner' soundtrack you'll find something to treasure here too.
It will be interesting to see what happens in Version 2.0, whether they'll burn out or dilute the formula for mass production. Maybe they won't have to. The surprisingly pretty acoustic finale 'Tell Me What To Swallow' suggests they may yet have travel plans. A promising start then, and whilst I'm not yet in the “I'm getting the bands logo tattooed on my face” stage, there's definitely a spark of life in this one.