Crystal Stilts + Comet Gain @ Cargo, London, 30.03.11
by Lewis G Parker
At Cargo last night, I saw one of the most beguiling friendships in music.
British indie-pop band Comet Gain and the New York dulls, Crystal Stilts, playing back-to-back and calling out to one another during their sets is a musical cut-and-shut equivalent to the front end of a Mini Cooper being grafted onto the back of a hearse. So the Northern British six-piece, comprising two women and at least one person who looked over 35, had all the low-key charm and wit of the Mini Cooper. It had egalitarian, grin-and-bear-it work ethic with the band sharing singing duties between the mainstay, songwriter and droll wordsmith, David Feck (pictured above), and the dove-voiced Rachel Evans. This was a band who released a record called Say Yes! to International Socialism, and who invited the audience to a nearby park to drink cans of beer with them after the show. They played Brix-era Fall-style songs with lyrics and melodies their more successful admirers like The Cribs would bleed for, and the white folks who watched were tempted to dance, and some of the girls actually did boogie to what must be some of the whitest, squarest music alive, it was that good.
I was truly ready to jump in the car and go wherever Comet Gain wanted me to go – to a park with cans of beer and a pretend pirate ship with pictures of new wave cinema icons pasted on the mast. But then I saw the back wheels of the car, Crystal Stilts, and I said there’s no fucking way I’m getting in there, it’s a sure-fire death trap that’ll send me hurtling deep into the abyss of middle-class establishment rock that’s written and talked about by middle-class bloggers, who buy middle-class food at the middle-class farmers’ market and then shit it all out and still have the nerve to call these pieces of turd the products of rock’n’roll music.
The death rattle was ominous as the singer sort of shuffled around onstage, half-dancing because he couldn’t decide if he wanted to be Bobbie Gillespie or the bloke from The Kooks, so he ended up standing there and muttering his vocals like a rich kid who’s been asked by the teacher what his Daddy does for a living but he’s too ashamed to say that he’s a child-molesting crime-lord. Oh, the collar of the denim shirt was buttoned all the way to the top, and he grinned at god knows what; presumably he thinks dragging 300 people into a small venue on a Wednesday night and playing high-school rip-offs of the Jesus And Mary Chain is a really funny thing to do. If people got the joke they weren’t laughing, they weren’t dancing, but pretty inexplicably, they weren’t leaving, either.
I was surprised to see so many people there in the first place, and astounded they stayed through the entirety of Crystal Stilts’ 40-minute plundering of the shoegaze genre. I was even more shocked because Comet Gain are supposedly friends with these tossers who are taking up valuable space on a record label, on festival bills, on this planet. They may not have bad taste because no doubt when they were kids they could afford to buy plenty of records, and they hang around the Brooklyn scene with bands like Vivian Girls and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart; and when you make a living out of doing cutesy genre pastiches and hang out with other people who do the same, you get a pretty solid idea of musical history, although not much perspective on it. Like Pains … (and less so with Vivian Girls), I saw Crystal Stilts and my greatest fears for the future of rock’n’roll music were confirmed. What was once a revolutionary, aggressive sound has been appropriated and vomited back out of the mouths of contemporary bands, complete with the silver spoons they must have swallowed as infants. It’s all very polite, extremely irritating, and unless the Mini Coopers of this world like Comet Gain can lead the way, Crystal Stilts are exactly the kind of establishment vehicle that will drive rock’n’roll into the abyss of bourgeois vanity at 130 beats per minute.
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When I'm not whoring myself out to indie kerb crawlers like the BBC, Dazed and Confused, The Quietus and the BBC, I pursue the more noble arts of writing fiction and chewing gum. I blog sporadically here: http://bodiesontheline.wordpress.com/ and my previous work is here: http://bangpuss.blogspot.com/