[CD Review] Crystal Antlers, 'Tentacles' (Touch and Go)

Jonny Bell has a gullet-shredding yell thatNd fit in just fine with your average Orange County hardcore outfit. But his bandNs music makes it tough to imagine the guy performing anywhere near studded belts or shitty rock-club bathrooms. No, when listening to Tentacles, the debut full-length from Long BeachNs Crystal Antlers, you envision stranger places: circuses, deserts, big blue oceans, saloons—the old-timey, Wild-West kind, not the kind where you get jacked on Red Bull and mosh to Bleeding Through.

Blame organist Victor Rodriguez. He splashes the entire album with cartoon colors, starting with the video-poker headache of opener “Painless Sleep” and ending with the big-screen, M83-like space hum of “Several Tongues.” But things really get weird—and kinda sweet—when the rest of the band pile on, with guitarists Andrew King and Errol Davis turning their instruments into steam whistles, drummer Kevin Stuart bashing out somersaulting rhythms, and Bell playing spastic punk bass under his spastic punk screaming. The albumNs a mess. Luckily, itNs a mess you can jump around to.

But the bandNs much buzzed-about 2008 EP suggested that Crystal Antlers could provide more than just an exotic headbanging experience. Its six songs were murkier, with the organ pushed beneath those hissing-teapot guitars. Bell growled, but he also whispered, semi-sang and occasionally hit a high note. If the members of Crystal Antlers sounded like they existed anywhere on that EP, it was in the psyche. On Tentacles, theyNve come into the light of day. ThatNs not so terrible, except for the glare off the organ—and the fact that itNs less fun to imagine places you can see.

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