From the get go there is a malevolent, sinister undertone to this record that creeps in through the quiet rumblings of Sycamore Tree. Due to the almost indecipherable lyrics that Brad Hargett half-mumbles-half-croons there has always been a mysterious side to the group, and they open here with equal clandestine. Soon however, their pop side bursts through and we are treated to some ‘60s garage and some hazy yet riotous numbers. Crystal Stilts have always stood firmly in the shadows of artists of old, yet there is something about them that brings an invigoration to the sound. It’s familiar yet fresh and this album is their broadest and most complete piece of work.
The music sometimes towers above the vocals, reducing them to an underground murmur at times, like somebody trapped and trying to escape. The fact that you can’t hear a fucking word only makes the instruments come to life more as you strain your ears - a incoherent clarity, if you will - a perilous tactic but one the band are able to not only pull off, but execute with stark precision. The album struts between ‘60s rompers that embody the gritty snarl of The Cramps or The Velvet Underground, and their more familiar territories of ‘80s Mary Chain-like numbers, the album almost sounds like a lost compilation of some underground band, spanning over several decades.
For a band with such a specific idiosyncratic edge to them, they also possess the ability to simultaneously resemble multiple bands over the space of one LP. It’s the above opposing concoctions that make the album feel like a journey rather than a solitary hop. There’s a certain cheek to this band that gets them through somehow, album closer ‘Prometheus at Large’ should really have Lou Reed and the Velvets reaching for the yellow pages and looking up lawyers to file for copyright infringement, but somehow they get away with it in their own warbled way. Crystal Stilts, it seems, are the most unoriginal original band.