Crystal Antlers at The Workman’s Club – Review
February 28th saw the Workman’s Club host Californian indie rockers Crystal Antlers on their European tour in support of their excellent fourth album, ‘Nothing Is Real’.
The Vincent(s), ‘death pop’ group out of Cork, opened the night with their characteristic sound, much like a very moody version of Interpol. On record, their fantastic debut EP ‘Valley of the Sun’, The Vincent(s) sound a charming but dark, show-your-mam-and-dad kind of band, but live the brilliant understated compositions at times become a frenzy of noise which hides the real quality behind their music. The baritone vocals and sombre basslines of Charles Allen work hard to deliver their memorable hooks behind the cloak of feedback and atonal noodling, yet at all the times the songs themselves remain a treat.
See also: Interview with The Vincent(s)
Playing as a four-piece on this tour, Crystal Antlers take the stage, and absolutely rip it up for the first half of their set, playing seven or eight belters of frantic aggressive rock, ‘Rattlesnake’ in particular sounding excellent on the night. Unfortunately for both the soundman and my now-fragile eardrums, they appear to be a band who demand to always be louder, asking to be turned up repeatedly throughout the performance. Consequently, for the louder songs, the sound is a little muddy, and it’s especially hard to hear guitarist Andrew King.
But Crystal Antlers are known for their impressive ability to play, and play well, both trashy, aggressive rock and slower melodic numbers, and after the first 30 minutes’ onslaught they switch to their softer side with the amazing ‘We All Gotta Die’ and continue largely in that vein for the second half of the show. The difference is pronounced, but they weave more intense sections into it too for an altogether satisfying experience. They only played for an hour, but I honestly could have listened to another two.
They end the set with, honestly, one of the greatest and most captivating performances I’ve ever seen, ‘Parting Song for the Torn Sky’, from their debut EP in 2008. It’s their regular closer, but it’s a monster consisting of ten-minutes of a heavy jam over a captivating bassline, intensifying to a climax that you hope never arrives. The song is so engrossing that none of the previously-inexpressive 30 or 40 people in the room can help themselves but move with it. As Bell headbangs on the dancefloor in front of the crowd, it feels unfortunate: firstly, that it took until the last song for the crowd to get into it, but also that a band of such quality don’t command a larger audience and venue. With such a showing, we probably don’t deserve to have them back, but if you get the opportunity I’d highly recommend it. Also, bring earplugs.
Review by Conor Cosgrave