Crystal Antlers has had quite a year. After self-releasing their awesome debut EP, the Southern California psych-punk outfit stirred up a wave of praise from critics and bloggers, all of which was well deserved. Not long thereafter, the Long Beach-based band was picked up by legendary indie label Touch & Go, who reissued the EP for a wider audience, and announced that it would be releasing the group’s debut full-length. However, those are just the positives. Unfortunately, the band was also robbed twice in the last year, and a little over a month before the release of Tentacles, the band’s first full-length, Touch & Go announced it would cease releasing new music, and existing solely to be a catalog-only label.
Crystal Antlers have seen their share of ups and downs, but in spite of some of the more recent unfortunate incidents surrounding the band, the awe-inspiring power of Tentacles should undoubtedly find them back on top again. Following in the footsteps of their first EP, Tentacles kicks up a shitstorm of heady psychedelic rock infused with a garage rock rawness, and a chaotic, punk rock fierceness. All of the intensity and sonic head trips of their first short release have translated into a sprawling, mesmerizing and pulverizing collection of rock `n’ roll music that’s as woozy and spacey as it is hard-edged and raw.
An escalating organ acts as a brief fanfare in the intro to “Dust,” just before a whirlwind of guitars and percussion blast in to cast aside any neat and clean melodies they may have initially teased. “Time Erased” finds the band sounding a bit catchier, primarily led by Johnny Bell’s descending vocal howls, while the slower, soulful “Andrew” reveals a melodic waltz rife with eerie organ leads and mesmerizing guitar licks dancing around the straightforward bassline. Little semblance of melody breaks through the dense wall of organ drone and guitar squeak in “Vapor Trail.” Yet, that nebulous sonic ether is fleeting, as the direct assault of the title track cuts through with one of the most straightforward, punk rock melodies on the album.
On Tentacles, Crystal Antlers displays a more diverse and expansive version of the sound they unleashed on six stellar tracks last year. There are more furious guitar freakouts, softer and druggier ballads, and fiercer, more aggressive punk rock tracks. It’s as strong a debut as anyone could have hoped for, and while they may temporarily find themselves without a label in the foreseeable future, it’s hard to believe that anyone, after hearing this, wouldn’t want to put out album number two.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.