The Crystal Stilts brought their brand of gloomy garage-pop to Manchester’s Ruby Lounge on their return to the UK in support of their new album ‘In Love With Oblivion’.
Since I last saw them two years ago across the city at The Deaf Institute they haven’t really developed their stage presence, singer Brad Hargett only barely tries to engage his audience and guitarist JB Townsend doesn’t even interact with the rest of the band, standing as far away as he can get with his head down throughout tonight’s 50 minute set. This persona is however all part of their charm and the audience doesn’t seem to mind one bit. Brad has in the past been continuously compared to Ian Curtis but tonight I was reminded of a young, shy, uncomfortable Jim Morrison, his towering frame rarely moves but his mind looks to be continually wandering as he loses himself in the moment.
The bright red stage lights of the Ruby Lounge make it difficult to focus on the stage and I found myself for the most part listening with my head down or with my eyes shut, it is in the latter that the music of The Crystal Stilts truly engages the listener as Brad’s vocal drone battles with Kyle Forester’s haunting synth, Andy Adler’s rumbling bass, Keegan Cooke’s tom laden pounding drums and Townsend’s compressed, distorted guitar.
Hailing from New York, it’s of no surprise that the influence of The Velvet Underground can be heard in the Crystal Stilts along with that of Joy Division, The Jesus & Mary Chain and The Doors. Opener tonight and first track from their new album ‘Sycamore Tree’ is reminiscent of ‘Not To Touch The Earth’ by The Doors, the song sets the tone for the hypnotic murmur that is to engulf the audience. ‘Departure’ and ‘The Dazzled’ from début album ‘Alight Of Night’ are highlights as are recent singles ‘Shake The Shackles’ and ‘Love Is A Wave’.
The Crystal Stilts are a band that perhaps belong in a different era with dancing girls on podiums and psychedilia in the air, as they left the stage and the Ruby Lounge became a burlesque strip club I could swear I was there.