The latest album by Crystal Antlers goes by the name of Nothing Is Real which evidently must be an ironic statement because there is something wholeheartedly tangible about the trio’s third LP. Be it the way singer/bassist Jonny Bell swerves from nonchalant croon to agonized howl or Kevin Stuart’s bone shaking drums licks, or finally the maelstrom Andrew King whips with his guitar positions the Long Beach based band somewhere between The Gaslight Anthem and Black Flag. Scratchy, hectic and unhinged, Nothing Is Real deals in realness, it’s the sound of a bunch of dudes, setting up, plugging in and blasting out punk ‘n’ roll tunes without restriction.
Understandably Nothing Is Real is a tongue and cheek swipe at modern times and the fascination with the synthetic. Crystal Antlers have answered this open question with a raw and impassioned arsenal of 11 tracks that behold power and poise without ever sounding clinical or contrived. ‘Paper Thin’ name-checks the album’s title with the band storming through the sub three minute ramshackle punk rocket with venomous purpose. Speaking of venomous, ‘Rattlesnake’ finds the band flirting with the quiet/loud dynamic shift with sedate verses leading into a raucous chorus powered by Bell bellowing the song’s title like he’s alerting a township of an impending invasion of the slithery suckers. ‘Better Things’ finds Stuart pummeling his kit like a drunken man handling a malfunctioning blunderbuss, while the injection of organ swirls layers in a cosmic undertone to CA’s cacophonous assault.
The three piece’s new LP doesn’t just trade in “wham, bam, thank you mam” sonics, Crystal Antlers also boast occurrences of restraint and calm. ‘We All Gotta Die’ shifts down the gears and gives the band room to breathe, King’s guitar is given full advantage to squall in and out of Stuart’s rolling drum beats but all delivered at a more pedestrian pace. ‘Anywhere But Here’ continues the urgency of the band at full force but with the Californian trio keeping the whole thing on a tight leash. There are times where the snarling beast could run riot but Crystal Antlers competently control their sound whilst maintaining an air of danger. ‘Don’t Think Of The Stone’ flips the record 180, as Crystal Antlers embark on a hypnotic, swirling execution that is fueled by woozy rhythms and Bell’s dreamy vocals.
Quite the contrary, Nothing Is Real is everything but fake.
Words and Thoughts of Adam Williams