While they’re not as prolific as reigning garage rock king Ty Segall, Long Beach’s Crystal Antlers have made an equally significant impact on the SoCal indie scene over the past few years. Mixing psych, garage and glam and evoking influences as diverse as Comets on Fire and Black Flag, their debut EP caught the attention of critics back in 2008. Taking inspiration from the grimier side of their hometown, a part-Surf City, part-industrial wasteland, the EP could’ve soundtracked Pynchon’s Inherent Vice — a stoner-noir set in nearby Manhattan Beach.
On the two full-length albums that followed, Crystal Antlers pushed the boundaries of their sound by experimenting with other genres and applying more focus to instrumental arrangements. “Rattlesnake,” their new single on fast-growing indie label Innovative Leisure, finds the band branching out even further and incorporating hints of early indie and post-rock.
Fluctuating between aggressive and reflective, the song is structured around a modern take on the loud-quiet-loud theme popularized by the Pixies. Assumed to be about a relationship gone bad, the lyrical concept plays up the theme even further, with singer Johnny Bell practically whispering for the first and second verses and simply screaming out “Rattlesnake” for most of the chorus.
I was pretty blown away by Crystal Antlers’ debut, but there’s something instantly captivating about “Rattlesnake” that I haven’t been able to find on their previous releases. I’m innately drawn to anything that’s even remotely emotional or sincere, and there’s a vulnerability expressed in the lyrics. But there’s also something about the way the guitar melody gently guides everything to the chorus at the end of each verse. All the parts seem to be in the right place.
“Rattlesnake” is accompanied by the B-side “California,” a speedy, two-minute garage jam that sounds like Jay Reatard on a hefty dose of LA medical marijuana. If these two tracks are any indication of where Crystal Antlers are headed, then I suspect their third LP, out later this Fall, could trump Segall’s latest. The “Rattlesnake” single sees a physical release on September 24th, but both tracks are currently available to stream on Spotify.
Crystal Antlers – “Rattlesnake”/”California” (Spotify Stream)