November 2011

Crystal Castles

With Robert Smith

Here's a tip for you- if you're looking for interesting music, check out whatever Robert Smith thinks is interesting music. The guy seems to have good taste. He led me to Cranes, who have been one of my favorite bands for a long time. Now we have the familiar voice of Robert Smith, paired with the less-familiar sound of Crystal Castles, and their song “Not In Love.”

 

Crystal Castles are a duo from Toronto, Ontario. Alice Glass writes the lyrics and sings the songs (when Robert Smith isn't singing them!) while Ethan Kath puts the music together. They've been described as synth-pop as well as avant-garde electronic dance music.

Robert Smith Playing With Siouxsie And The Banshees

Post-Punk's Explosion Of Creativity

Here's some early footage of Robert Smith performing with Siouxsie and the Banshees, a post-punk band founded by Sex Pistols follower Siouxsie Sioux. Considering the stripped-down minimalism of punk rock itself, it's interesting to see how many different styles and musical directions evolved out of the early punk rock scene.

 

Siouxsie Sioux was one of a number of young punk rockers who frequently attended Sex Pistols shows and supported the band. Another member of that early group of Sex Pistols fans was a London Irish kid named Shane MacGowan. Siouxsie went on to form Siouxsie and the Banshees, and helped to create the gothic subculture in the process. One of her early bandmates, Robert Smith, had just as much of an influence on both the goth scene and post-punk music through his own band, the Cure.

Cranes Song Remixed By Robert Smith

"Jewel"

I first heard about Cranes (not “the Cranes”) because they were opening for the Cure when the Cure was coming to play in my town. I read the review, found it intriguing, and went out and bought their album. Something about their music just seemed so beautiful to me- layers and layers of lush and swirling sound, sometimes ethereal and sometimes loud and harsh, with Allison Shaw's strangely childlike voice (which happens to be her natural, everyday voice). I don't know if I listened to anything else for the entire next year.

Top 40 Mentality

Why Do DJs Always Play The Same Songs?

I call it the Top 40 mentality- the tendency to want to hear the same few songs over and over again by the same bands. We all know this mentality dominates mainstream radio and classic rock stations (how many times do we really need to hear Hotel California or Stairway to Heaven?) but the same mentality is common in counter-culture music scenes as well.

The Cure's Punk Roots

Punk Rock + Existentialism= "Killing an Arab"

Before anybody called the Cure a goth band, they were usually referred to as a post-punk band. Of course, to be “post” anything you have to have some sort of connection to the thing itself. You can hear this connection pretty clearly on some of the Cure's earlier tracks, such as “Killing an Arab.”

 

In everything except the subject matter, it's essentially a punk song, although it is arguably on the artsy side of English punk, like the first few tracks by Warsaw. (Since Warsaw later became the Joy Division, the similarity is not surprising.)

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Post-punk has been described as an inward-looking and artistically experimental variation on punk rock. You don't get much more inward-looking than French existentialism, or much more experimental than basing a punk song on “The Stranger” by Albert Camus, as the Cure have done here. It's hard to imagine the typical punk band being quite that intellectual, despite the fact that many famous punk rockers (Johnny Rotten and Chuck Dukowski among others) are extremely intelligent.