Last Night: Crystal Castles At House Of Blues

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Photos by Jody Perry
Crystal Castles
House of Blues
September 13, 2010

There are elements of last night's Crystal Castles show that we still don't quite know how to put into words. The Canadian duo, plus a drummer, is staking out such new territory piece by piece that they only have themselves and a select group of bands that came before them to be measured against.

The fact that there was a packed house of kids barely old enough to smoke is an even bigger feat. On top of that, our eyes are still seared from the lights and strobes they bring with them. It's amazing to us that it was just over a decade ago that deathly-loud electro-punk bands not unlike CC were relegated to mixtapes and obscure noise labels. Now they can play House of Blues, and like we said, damn near pack out the hall.

Sure, plenty of bands have done this before, but no one else has brought it this mainstream. Without the pioneering Atari Teenage Riot, who pulls into town at the end of the month, you have no Crystal Castles.

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Led by front woman Alice Glass and former Kill Cheerleader member Ethan Kath, CC makes painfully gruesome music together. They fuse elements of Throbbing Gristle, prime Skinny Puppy, CSS' latter-day pop and Aphex Twin. Their two self-titled LPs are slabs of meaty skronk and harrowing experimental noise.

The band in a live setting is asphyxiating to the eyes and ears. To borrow a line from Seinfeld, it's loathsome and offensive, yet we seem to not be able to look away. This was CC's first Houston stand by our account. The last two times Aftermath had seen them was in Austin, the first at their SXSW bow in 2008 and then last year's Fun Fun Fun Fest.

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For an hour and half, the crowd was pummeled with five or six free-standing light structures and overhead strobes as Glass, Kath, and drummer Christopher Chartrand turned the venue floor into a sweaty, sticky mass of skinny jeans, V-necks and screams. The crowd, mostly sullen teens and dance-addled randoms, ate up every yelp from the diminutive Glass, who threw herself into the crowd in between her own aerobics onstage.

What Aftermath likes most about Crystal Castles and their live show is that they aren't trying to make you smile - or even really dance. They traffic in primal aggressive movement, with the music being wholly synthetic and Glass' vocals processed live to sound like a demonic doll.

She's become an indie-rock sex symbol for her feral stage persona; sitting at 22 years of age, it's scary and exciting to imagine what the next few years will bring from her and Kath alike.

Plenty of Houston kids are waking up this morning with burning eyes, ringing ears, and sore limbs. And it's only Tuesday.


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