by Joshua B. Hoe So, I loved this band called Crystal Castles..It was made up of two people Ethan Kath (the producer) and Alice Glass (the singer).
When I say Alice Glass rules, I don't mean in any kind of romantic way...Way too often that is what an article about a woman singer is really about (with accompanying "fashion" shots...You know to show "her" personality in clothes other people pick..and posed like...well not naturally).
When I say she rules, I mean she is an awesome voice for her generation and an amazing and charismatic performer (in a world that suddenly thinks performing means mouthing the words to your songs while dancing).
There is still a Crystal Castles sans Alice...But I really felt the new album by Ethan Kath and a mysterious singer was not very good. I was encouraged by the first single from the forthcoming Alice Glass solo project...I am hopeful some great stuff is yet to come from her.
Anyway here is why Alice Glass rules.
Reason One: Alice Glass is an incredible on-stage performer
Crystal Castles were a blast live...Mostly because Alice Glass made even huge stages into playgrounds...she had no fear and was so fierce.
Here she is rock starring out with a bottle of what looks like Jack:
She might not be punk in the nostalgic (musical) sense of the word, but she was through and through a punk performer - totally putting it out there 100%...no pretense, no artifice.
Here she is dominating a HUGE festival:
No different than Iggy Pop, no different than Genesis P., No different than Kim Gordon, No different than The Slits. You felt the rage, you felt the energy, you felt the ability a real performer has.
As you watch so-called live performance after so-called live performance on one of the 30 or so music awards shows on TV every year...try to pick out how many times someone who is actually singing tears the place down without the aid of like 300 dancers, a backing track, and light shows.
Alice Glass killed it every time I saw CC's...and it was just her and Ethan Kath on stage (sometimes a drummer).
Ethan Kath is a very talented producer, but if you just put him on stage, everyone would probably leave.
Alice Glass made them a viable live act. Just a bunch of keyboards and programmed music and Alice.
They put out three really great albums....I loved every one.
As I have mentioned several times before, I was both a punk kid and a club kid, so electronic music has always been part of my wheelhouse...particularly dark angst ridden electronic music.
Reason Two: Alice Glass Is Right About the Music Industry
In a 2012 interview in NME Alice called out the record industry for selling sex to kids and generally hating women.
Here is an excerpt:
"I think a lot of kids are more sexualised now than they were now than they were years ago and I'm not sure it's a coincidence," she says. "Like fucking Katy Perry spraying people with her fucking dick, her fucking cum gun coming on fucking children. And little girls, like six-year-old girls wearing a shirt with 'I wanna see your [pea] cock' on it"
She added: "Don't prey on vulnerable people like that. Don't encourage little girls to get dressed up, to have cupcakes on their tits to get people to lick them off 'cos that's what you're insinuating."
Strong stuff...but pretty hard to say she is wrong.
Just look at the story of Britney Spears...She was marketed as a teen ingenue around a song called "hit me baby one more time."
She was hounded and pursued by the press, exploited by management and her parents (who famously gained her legal guardianship and power of attorney), and marketed constantly until she had a public nervous breakdown.
I think one of the great problems with our society is that we are very quick to blame other people. We, and the tabloids, will blame breakdowns on everything but the likely cause...US...Our insatiable desire to live vicariously through stars.
Maybe more our insatiable desire to consumer them.
And Britney couldn't even sing. You know it is exploitation of a look when the person at the front of a music enterprise has virtually no discernible musical talent. I don't mean this in a mean way at all, I have nothing but compassion for Britney.
I obviously don't know her, and this could all be a false narrative, but I have a hard time not believing that what she has lived through might not have been worth the money.
So basically, she was the worlds most famous singer who could not sing...But she had a "look" - the one Alice was talking about - and she could kind of dance.
But then her knee went.
But the machine kept pushing her image out there...There was money to be made and pictures to be taken...magazines don't sell themselves...but exploiting a young girl who is literally dissolving under all the scrutiny was still okay...?
I remember seeing her on some shows in advance of her Vegas residency...She looked like she almost had to be propped up on the stage and moved with wires.
I could be wrong, but I feel like she was literally used up and thrown out by the music industry...Yes, she has money (much of which seems to keep her parents living in high style)...but at what cost.
And we are no better, we were slurping up all those magazines and tell-all reality tv programs and albums and videos. We were consuming her pain and loving it. And we weren't even considering what it was saying to kids about sexuality...or about where power actually lies.
Perhaps it was all explained best in the South Park Jonas Brothers episode?
And that is just the people directly exploited by the music..not the people the music is designed to exploit...with t-shirts, albums, perfumes, commercial tie-ins...all of this usually combined with an "edgy" message purposefully marketed to kids.
Be a rebel by buying our Che Guevara musical scam shirt.
Some people might complain that this view is a protection racket not allowing people to be what they want to be...protecting them from themselves and their own empowerment. But, this is pretty sketchy considering who is being marketed to.
More recently Glass said:
"Record companies mix this dated, almost cartoonish idea of being something grown men are supposed to find attractive with a market of very young children," she says. "Sex sells and kids buy music, so the natural tendency for people who want to make money is to combine those two things. It's fundamentally irresponsible and it's not taking into account how this affects developing children."
Again, pretty fierce, but right on.
Who else would put that out there? Who else would put their own marketing machine at risk...Their "brand" at risk...to say this?
She is one of a new group of women who are ferocious and public about their feminism (Lauren Mayberry for instance)....and about their opposition to sexual exploitation and abuse (especially in the music industry).
Reason Three - Alice Glass Has A Really Defiant Stance on Music
So, in a relatively recent interview Glass said:
"I'm sick of the music they like being romanticised and glorified. I wish I never had to hear about 'the genius legend of John Lennon' ever again." Instead, Alice is ready to focus on the future of music. "It's our generation's turn," she stresses. "We can be influenced by the past but fuck retro trends, it's regressive. It robs our generation of our rightful identity in the present. Let's support the up-and-coming, struggling artists of our generation."
Yes, I teased Vince Staples for having mostly this exact same stance...but Vince was saying that 90's hip-hop wasn't that great when he later admitted he hadn't listened to many of the seminal albums.
What Glass is saying is that it is okay to have influences but you shouldn't start churning out retro music instead of heading in a modern and challenging direction.
Crystal Castles music was influenced by all the club and dark alternative synth artists that came before...but it was new and fresh and certainly not retro.
I want artists to push the envelope and to give the machine the finger. I want more Johnny Cash and less Jennifer Lopez.
This is why Alice Glass rules!
Appendix One: The Breakup
Anyway, I could go into the details of the beef between Alice and Ethan, but it is way too "reality television."
They both said a bunch of stuff back and forth through interviews...who knows. Lots of speculation and innuendo.
Doesn't really matter much to me because, I have heard Crystal Castles before and after...and Ethan misses Alice...and I cannot even imagine what he will do without her on stage.
Looking forward to Alice Glass finishing her project!
Appendix Two: About Katy Perry
Alice called out Katy Perry, and I think the criticism is valid. But, I kind of like Katy Perry...Not the music, which is mostly awful..And not the public persona (part of her brand)...But the "her" you see little snippets of every once in awhile.
I have very little knowledge of her at all...But I saw her when she was a guest judge on American Idol (when I sometimes was still surprised by the contestants on the show) and it was a revelation.
She was sharp in her criticism and sounded like a super-self-assured, sarcastic, world-weary theater Mom. People don't realize she is 31 (I think)...
I have long suspected that she spent way too many years trying to make it as a talented vocalist and songwriter...
I suspect this is partially because she has a great voice, but not a voice that has a unique personality.
She really does have a very good, but workmanlike voice if you ever here her without all the nonsense surrounding her (and the backing tracks and vocal effects).
Finally, after way too long, and probably when she was a bit too old, she made it as a "young edgy star." She had to become a bigger than life character to animate the stardom dream.
And she did.
I don't begrudge her this at all. I suspect it was hard earned.
I hope someday she gets to reunite with that singer she probably used to be.
That said, Alice wasn't wrong.
Hattie McDaniel was a great actress and was amazing in Gone With The Wind...But the movie Gone With The Wind was an incredibly well done wistful romantic nostalgia piece in love with the Old South.
This wasn't Hattie's fault...It was our fault.
We loved Gone With The Wind because we white folks hated "the new integrated world" and wanted to go back to our simple plantations (if even for a few hours).
The music industry is packaging a fantasy for us...and they have some blame for being exploitative amoral a-holes...Maybe the artists have some blame...but the most blame goes to us. It sells because we buy the package.
So thanks to Alice Glass for having the chutzpah to say it.
What do you think of Alice Glass? What do you think about Crystal Castles? Love to hear your comments!