, November 9th, 2012 04:16
There are things one has come to expect from a Crystal Castles release: it’s going to be noisy, song titles will carry unpleasant connotations, lyrics - when intelligible - will have little in common with usual dancefloor-aimed electropop, and Alice Glass will scream many of them. The run-up to III has promised that Glass and miserablist producer Ethan Kath would deliver the tried and tested formula amped up to 11, but also their setting foot in new territory as well. The duo find sure footing sometimes, but not often enough.
For every instance on III set to give the listener an aural acid bath, there are nearly as many that might induce a snooze on the bus, and a dribble on your neighbouring passenger’s shoulder. ‘Wrath of God’ is the song which comes closest to the scourge we were promised - particularly in the unrelenting wash of noise at the song’s end - but, for every moment like it, there is something fairly run of the mill like the goth rave-up ‘Sad Eyes’.
One of Crystal Castles’ greatest assets is Glass’ scream, which is used relatively sparingly on III. Although an involuntary blood curdling isn’t to everyone’s tastes, anyone who does fancy a generous helping of shriek need only spin old tracks ‘Alice Practice’, ‘Doe Deer’, or ‘Baptism’ to get their fix. Subduing Glass on III actually tamps down the nihilism somewhat.
Still, even a coo from Glass will express some horrible trait of humanity, and her voice - and what is done to it - is mostly fine here, if sometimes predictable. ‘Kerosene’ manages to be both bouncy and haunting, thanks to Glass’ most decipherable line, “I’ll protect you from all the things I’ve seen.” ‘Affection’ is surprisingly accessible, although that trick was employed better on II tracks like ‘Empathy’. ‘Transgender’ has a nice holiness to it, or at least it sounds like it was recorded in a blown-out church. Absolutely nothing on the release, however, can compare to closer ‘Child I Will Hurt You’. It is a song of frightening beauty, one in which the unfolding tranquility and serenity does not mask the accompanying dread, but anticipates it.
Otherwise, songs on III too often follow Crystal Castles’ normal noise-rave suit. It has been alleged that all songs on the album are first takes, and in some cases this certainly feels true. Although it’s probably unlikely - and certainly not wished for - Kath and Glass will start loving life and release a single called ‘Jelly Babies’, cloaking their darker aspects in something more ethereal could be an interesting direction. The live shows could suffer, but as long as Crystal Castles’ ability to startle and unsettle remains, the world is theirs to criticize.