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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Frightened Rabbit, Crystal Castles

posted by on October 29 at 11:24 AM

Or “Real Band? Fake Band?” pt. 2:

Frightened Rabbit are pretty much the epitome of a “real” band: they began as the solo-acoustic pub act of Scott Hutchinson before his brother Grant and others joined making them a full band, they all play guitars and drums (although, it should be noted, there is a keyboard onstage and even—gasp!—a laptop), and Scott sings like every chorus is ripping his heart out, his voice pealing up and away from him, straining as though he’s about to burst into tears or maybe flames, like he “really” feels it, man (think Bright Eyes with an accent and more triumphalism). Their best songs build into these fucking huge choruses, all stomp and ringing electric guitars and Scott and Grant howling in harmony. And you know what? I’m a sucker for some of that “meaningfulcore” shit, and I’m totally taken by Frightened Rabbit. These are songs built for bigger rooms, bigger things, and I’m pretty confident they’ll get there. Highlights of their set included “The Twist” and “I Feel Better.”

It doesn’t hurt that just about any banter at all sounds grret in a Scottish accent, and Scott’s banter was actually pretty charming: He (rightly) complained about our city’s asinine law against having a drink onstage, suggesting that Chop Suey install a beer-spraying fire hose in the bar so that he could get beered without actually having a drink onstage; he then joked that there was plenty of booze onstage it was just already in his belly (which, to the point, Seattle’s law doesn’t actually keep drunk people offstage, just drinks), adding that his water bottle was “pure vodka, as well.” Until “world-class” Seattle fixes this puritanical shit, we should prepare to be the laughing stock of fucking Skelkirk, Scotland (population 5,839). Introducing one song, Scott noted happily that he no longer has to write the letters of the keys down on his keyboard anymore. Apparently, there was another Scotsman in the audience, and some of Scott’s banter was directed to him, as was one song dedicated. Another song was dedicated to a couple of strangers that gave Scott a pre-show hug in the bar. Between that sort of thing, the huge applause for every song, the people visibly singing along in the crowd, and what Scott described as “Jesus Christ, there’s the closest we’ve ever come to a mosh pit,” it was pretty clear that the crowd last night loves this band.

This isn’t the best quality live video of the band (and it’s not from last night’s show), but I think it gives the best impression of both Scott’s winning stage manner and the band’s sound, so:

Still, though, it was a smaller crowd than the Crystal Castles’ sold out all-ages show down the street at Neumos, and the Crystal Castles are almost your stereotypical “fake” band: they were conceived as little more than a joke, they allegedly rip off unknown chiptune artists’ creative commons tracks, they in fact ripped off the visual art of artist Trevor Brown (they supposedly did this unwittingly), their live show, although now aided by a live drummer, could pretty much be just Ethan Kath “pressing play” and Alice Glass shrieking and swinging a strobe light around. And yet, they were playing to a very real sold-out crowd; I guess the kids didn’t get the myspace blast about the importance of authenticity and guitars.

Not to get all “but I was there” about it, but, well, I was there on Crystal Castles long before they played a Seattle show (I even, as if anticipating this week’s discussion, proclaimed them “not a band”—hilarious), and I’ve seen them every time they’ve played here except for the last time, when they opened for fucking Nine Inch Nails at the Key Arena (I was on the lookout last night for true, black-blooded goth-industrialists, but I didn’t see any, sadly). Which is only to say, that even though they’re just now selling-out their own headlining show at Neumos, to me it seems (wrongly, apparently) like their moment has already come and gone. Don’t get me wrong, I still think the Crystal Castles have a handful of killer songs—”Love & Caring,” “Crimewave,” “Magic Spells,” “Air War,” lots, really—but I was perfectly happy hanging back in the crowd and letting the kids have their fun up front (and the kids really were tearing shit up; the whole place was pogoing wildly, the floor bouncing up and down like a trampoline). That was, until a friend of mine showed up who I think had never seen them before and dragged me into the crowd, where the enthusiasm was infectious enough to make me forget about whether or not the band’s moment was up or what I was going to write about them today and just enjoy the show. Whatever the novelty or authenticity of Crystal Castles’ spectacle last night, those songs still sound plenty fresh on the dance floor or the mosh pit or whatever that was.

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what do you mean, their moment has already come and gone? is that to say you think a second album won't be released... or that a second album will suck... or that their brand of music is over... or that if they didn't "make it" opening for NIN they won't make it otherwise? or what?

also: I predict this band will break up before ever making it to our corner of the States, and that will be a shame. they made it this far! maybe they'll make it a little further...

Posted by infrequent | October 29, 2008 12:03 PM

what do you mean, their moment has already come and gone? is that to say you think a second album won't be released... or that a second album will suck... or that their brand of music is over... or that if they didn't "make it" opening for NIN they won't make it otherwise? or what?

also: I predict this band will break up before ever making it to our corner of the States, and that will be a shame. they made it this far! maybe they'll make it a little further...

Posted by infrequent | October 29, 2008 12:03 PM

Yeah, what the hell was that last night anyway? I was in the front area for a bit and the kids just wanted to either mosh and push, or jump up and down. If you wanted to actually dance, you had to move towards the back, which I had no quarrels with since it seemed like everyone there was in a positive mood. Good times.

Posted by Fletcher | October 29, 2008 12:14 PM

@1 (and 2): I just mean that going into last night's show, I was feeling like, yeah, their brand of aggressive, chip-tune influenced electro had perhaps already peaked, and that their debut hadn't stuck with me as much as I thought it would. But maybe I'm just too fickle; plenty of people are obviously still way, way into this band.

Also: I figure if I don't make bold, uninformed claims in print now I'll have nothing worth regretting come 2008.

Posted by Eric Grandy | October 29, 2008 12:18 PM


electronic music is weird. chiptunes have been around for a while... and though we see flourishes of them by some popular artists, there are finally acts accepted by the liberal elite media as hip: crystal castles, dan deacon, etc...

i'm not sure how much life is left in the 8bit scene, but it seems to be still peaking at this point. electronic music comes and goes quickly, but there are always those who hang on...

last night at neumos we saw CC really treated like a rock band by the fans. it's fun, but i was surprised there wasn't more dancing. still, it was much easier to enjoy their set as a spectator (not dancing), then say, Justice.

Posted by infrequent | October 29, 2008 12:29 PM

What bothers me so much about Castles is that out of all the chip tune artists that could have had a "break out" they are the least talented, catchy, original or even cool. seriously, check out some other chip tune artists and Castles will blanche in comparison.

Posted by tongue | October 29, 2008 12:29 PM

that's often the way it works. others lay the foundation and a "less talented" group gets the glory.

still, CC were able to present the music in a way that's palatable to their peers... it's not all 8bit, it has lyrics, they perform like punks, wear leather and skinny jeans... these things make a difference.

Posted by infrequent | October 29, 2008 12:35 PM

Great Lymbyc Systym write-up!

Posted by hi2u | October 29, 2008 12:41 PM

That show was fun. I'm not sure it merits this much deep thought.

Real or fake, they put on a great show and that's what I was there for.

Why no music at their merch table? T-shirts only? It would seem obvious that if you are playing sold out shows on a Tuesday night you might have some singles or CDs for sale.


Posted by Jeff | October 29, 2008 12:42 PM

I'm not sure it merits this much deep thought.

Oh, I know. I'm just still really amused by yesterday's hilarious "real"/"fake" conversation, and I wanted to squeeze a little more fun out of it.

Both great shows. And @8, I missed most of Lymbic System watching Frightened Rabbit. Next time, I'll be both places at once.

Posted by Eric Grandy | October 29, 2008 12:49 PM

Chip-tune stealing accusations proved to be over-exagerated, CC didn't use any stolen chip-tune on their album, only early unreleased songs:

Stealing from a visual artist was also over-exagerated. The artist simply didn't get along with the band's ex-manager. The artist gets along with the new manager:

Pitchfork doesn't have any answers on the band's longevity though. Time will tell.

Posted by Jarvis | October 29, 2008 9:42 PM

I like a handful of tracks on Crystal Castles' debut, so I checked out the show last night. Alive Glass' performance​ was one of the most distu​rbingly​ unnat​ural thing​s I have ever seen,​ and I have seen some quite​ distu​rbing​ unnat​ural thing​s (I do ride publi​c trans​porta​tion,​ after​all)​.​ The show ended​ with her twitc​hing her way into the crowd​ on hands​ and knees​,​ which​ was compo​sed of 14 year olds learn​ing how to smoke​ cigar​ettes​,​ and were so teena​gerpe​rezhi​ltona​meric​anapp​arele​d starv​ed they swall​oed her into thems​elves​ (as they had becom​e one black​ entit​y)​,​ then raise​d her up above​ them.​ They were all sillo​uhett​ed again​st a red velve​t curta​in in the backg​round​,​ and all i saw were flail​ing limbs​,​ and an emaci​ated coke godde​ss being​ worsh​ipped​.​ With strob​e light​s.​ It was one of the most helli​sh shows​ I have ever been to. And I don'​t mean in a good way.

Posted by not impressed | October 29, 2008 10:32 PM

if ringing endorsements from already-pretty-massive bands are any indication, frightened rabbit will be huge sooner rather than later.

Posted by douglas martin | October 30, 2008 2:41 AM

Death Cab For Who Now? Yeah, I suppose that endorsement will go a long ways towards their success. Good for them.

Posted by Eric Grandy | October 30, 2008 10:47 AM

@11, Ummmmm...i wouldn't look to pitchfork for journalistic integrity. All of the quotes to "prove" CC didn't steal anything or weren't in the wrong were from...Crystal Castles. Well, I guess that is that! I'm sorry, but you don't get accusations so earlier in a musical career without doing something shady.

Posted by puh-lease | October 30, 2008 12:17 PM

Using samples in your private home recordings isn't that "shady". We are talking about home recordings that were done 4 years before the band's first album.

Posted by Jarvis | October 30, 2008 1:39 PM

@16, no, that's what CC claims. did you read the article? you can go to the chip tune site and their version of events is much different. they don't particularly care for CC.

Posted by puh-leaze | October 30, 2008 2:28 PM

It's not a claim, it's a fact, Insecticon is not released anywhere. Lies Records put it on the Lies Records Myspace page without the proper song title. Kids have ripped the track to mp3 under various different titles. Bitter Hearts, Chess Mess, and Insecticon are all the same unreleased track which in the Pitchfork article we learn is actually called Insectica (vs Lo-bat).

Posted by Jarvis | October 30, 2008 2:43 PM

cc put on good show. they aren't the most original artists out there. eric g. get someone to edit your turds.

Posted by chunba | October 30, 2008 10:20 PM

Best part of the Crystal Castles show was Lymbyc Systym. Most "real" band I've seen in a long time.

Posted by EpLORI | November 3, 2008 11:35 AM

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