Colourful and frantic debut from the Basque-flavoured London five-piece.
James McMahon 2010
As far as press release made claims go, "Crystal Fighters formed after singer Laure discovered a diary of her insane, now deceased grandfather at his Basque country home – containing the skeleton of a incomplete opera and the future band’s name as a title – and vowed to honour his memory by recruiting a band back at home in London to finish his work", is a pretty bold one. It’s almost certainly a lie – but it beats "band formed in garage" hands down.
The London outfit’s debut is as colourful as that very tale, the five-piece fusing the Basque instrumentation of certain members’ heritage (the use of the txalaparta – a bit of rock bashed against another bit of rock native to that region – features throughout) with the feverish murk you’ll be familiar with if you’ve spent any length of time in the more fashionable outposts of east London. This you can hear best in Champion Sound, a song that takes the smooth lilt of plucked acoustic guitars and weaves it into a rhythm so urban it sounds like the capital cities heartbeat. Or Plage and its Casio fiesta.
Chances are you’ll have heard the records best songs already. Xtatic Truth was released as a single on Kitsuné last year – a label which seemingly exists for the sole purpose to release music by Euro-aware dance acts like Crystal Fighters – and sounds as frantic and euphoric as it did on first listen. In truth it sounds much like the big hit the disappointing second Klaxons record was lacking. Then there’s I Love London, another former single, notable for name checking the north-west London outpost of Willesden and gleefully wobbling upon the tightrope that bridges the territories marked ‘brilliant’ and ‘irritant’.
Star Of Love isn’t quite the debut that justifies a yarn as bold as that made by Laure about her grandfather – At Home, sequenced in the middle of the record, is an ill-judged attempt of an anthem that yodels a little too close to the incidental music in a Body Shop commercial. But it’s an assured, sporadically thrilling first shot. Depending on how insane Laure’s grandfather actually was, he’s got right to be reasonably chuffed at how his work was seen through. Except he's dead, and won't know either way. Such is life.