11 September 2010
Though I always welcome my friends to tell me about their music discoveries and their friends’ bands, I am usually disappointed with the later. It is sort of like parents having to tell their children that they are beautiful, friends are always oblivious to the crap that some of their friends are composing. But that is not the case with Crash Theory. First, let me say that this is a young band, and from what I understand has a new member. So the band is still developing through its “adolescence,” and this is the part of the journey that I like the most when it comes to bands. The potential is limitless: what direction will they go? Will they adopt a thematic image? Will they favor one extreme of their music to another? Second, this is a band with a female vocalist, and rock (and all its derivatives) has traditionally been a man’s world. Just look at any “ranking” of the most “important” rock bands; you don’t see many women. (Years after the punk and post-punk revolution, has Siouxsie and the Banshees really gotten the credit they deserve?)
First off, let’s talk about the components of the band: the members. Vocalist Carlyn has a big voice… and amazing big voice. Her voice is emotive and versatile – from tenderly sweet to dismissively despondent. She is at her best when she is the femme fatale on stage, something I hope she continues. In many cases, front-women shy away from their femininity on stage, but Carlyn has the capacity to make hers what disarms her audience and draws them right in. Guitarist Fonesca (and I am going to assume that he plays the keyboards that were prepped for the backing tracks) is the contemplative member on the stage. From straightforward crisp guitar arrangements to power chords to highly effected arrangements, he demonstrates a wider range of style than most guitarists in nascent bands. This is evidence that they are continuing to experiment with sounds, the mix-up of their musical references, and not complacently churning out the same song over and over till it is a cliché. Jiyo impressed me, and I am not often impressed with drummers; drummers are rare, descent time keepers even rarer, and competent drummers almost an extinct breed. Jiyo is good. He reminds me of a drummer like Budgie in his ability to be diverse, come up with new fresh patterns, and never allow what he does to just meld into the background (as so many drummers do), nor does he give into the cliché of just smashing cymbals. I would love to see this guy experiment with different ideas; I think he has only scratched the surface of what he can do. Lastly, bassist Patrick, who has this really energetic stage presence, rounds out the band. He makes it look easy: working all of the stage, connecting with the audience with ease, while executing his arrangements perfectly. Any successful live band always has two people on stage that can garner attention; it allows for a broader engagement with the band and the overall experience.
As a band, they are tight… extremely tight. The opening song, “Sing Along,” had this ambient, electronic effect going on: an ode to Duran Duran maybe? After the beat drops and the boys are at work, Carlyn enters the stage, dressed in white. And though the show started late (no fault of the band), they did not rush through their set, though I was made aware that they had to cut one song out (“Life Support”). The music does have many 90s references (with a few 80s synthpop-esque moments in the background). Though I would say that prominent references are definitely American, there is that carefree feel that some Britpop artists were definitely known for. Lyrically, forget the 90s, this is 80s: introspective but fun, with off beat references. In “Sing Along,” Carlyn muses/howls about social networks, ending with “What the fuck is Twitter anyway?” Eventually, she will sing, “I need a song to sing along.” You could easily say, “80s non-sense,” or you could take the bait and realize that they are talking about the social decay that comes with technology and we need to return to some of the simpler things in life, like a song.
And that is one way to define their music: fun and bubbly on the surface, but ready to be scratched. The music is not preachy, and often time very personal, but there are bigger statements lying beneath the surface. From technology to intimate interrelations, Crash Theory keeps their eye on accessibility, while keeping substance – à la 80s. This is a band I want to see a few months down the road to see how they continue to grow; I personally hope they veer towards their quirky side, with electronics in the background – because it is there they excel. But the sky is the possibility.
Check out Crash Theory’s music streaming on MySpace (link below). Remember, these are demos, so when you listen, start imagining where the songs can go. As they continue to grow and congeal as a band, the sound and the lyrics will change and evolve. But what you are going to notice right away is that the layers of music in the demos are very impressive – and that convinces me that someone in the band has been listening to Duran Duran!
1. Sing Along
2. Stand Up, Stand Out
5. Get Away
6. Far Too Long
Keep up with Crash Theory at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.
[My many thanks to Carlos Aranzazu of Gray Door Studio for the photography.]