Well, this was certainly interesting. Not anywhere near as good as the new Knife album as far as experimental synth pop (which seems to be a bit of a big thing lately) goes, but still, pretty interesting and mostly fun. I have to warn you, though, there is a little downtime. For instance, I confuse “Love Natural” with a Spotify ad every time I hear it, which isn’t a good sign, while “Are We One” tries to switch between calm and aggressive but can’t pull off either (“These Nights” does the same thing to much stronger effect”), and “Everywhere” is a cool synth tone in search of a solid melody.
So no, they’re not the world’s most consistent band. But when they get rolling, they’re very good, occasionally great. “L.A. Calling” and “You & I” are both unique fusions of folk and synth pop. The first earns its keep with one of the best choruses on the record and the second by having an agreeable “(Nothing But) Flowers” vibe about it. Granted, the band’s inconsistency plagues them even then – “No Man” comes off as pro forma after all the unqualified success before it, while “Wave” could use a more solid chorus if it wants to work its way into my good book.
But hey, I give them points just the same. And why not? For one, these songs are unique. Folk synth pop certainly isn’t a combination of sounds you hear often, and the fact that Crystal Fighters are willing to do it all is good by me. The fact that they make fun songs out of it when they’re at their best, and are quite listenable with it even at their worst, is definitely worth extra credit. They can do more conventional dance material quite well, too – “Separator” has an awesome rhythm to go along with its great chorus.
The big surprise, though, comes in the form of “Bridge of Bones.” It’s completely unlike anything else here, so much so that it took me by surprise when I first heard it. It starts off as a very simple piano and vocals-type affair, which gives way to a melody which combines, of all things, alternative rock with gospel. It moves through this quite well, only to bust out some hefty emotions come the big, uplifting ending. You know, the sort that shifts in key and melody and is basically the most cliché thing ever but works every time (well, as long as it’s not a power ballad) just the same? Yeah, that sort of ending.
And hey, I’m not entirely sure what to make of the fact that this album’s best song is also its biggest change of pace. All I know is that I like what I’m hearing here for the most part. Yes, they could use a little work in the quality control department, but they’ve got a unique sound and can put a good tune together. Turns out those two things will take you a long way.