Adhering to the rule that any self-respecting bunch of indie disco kids must come equipped with a rather incredulous backstory, Anglo-Spanish five-piece Crystal Fighters' debut album, Star of Love, was apparently influenced by an unfinished, existential opera manuscript found in the home of female vocalist Laure Stockley's insane late grandfather. While this unlikely source of inspiration is sure to get them a few more column inches, the band's self-produced release through their own Zirkulo label is interesting enough on its own, without the need for any madcap tales. Combining traditional Basque instrumentation (txalaparta, danbolin, txistu) with a schizophrenic barrage of sounds, it's a unique take on the electro-clash genre which certainly differentiates them from their fellow Crystal-monikered counterparts. This everything but the kitchen sink approach works wonders on the euphoric nu-rave of "Xtatic Truth," which provides the first real glimpse of Sebastian Pringle's "acquired taste" Latin parody vocals, and the arms-in-the-air flamenco trance of closer "Follow." But occasionally, it feels like the band is more concerned with showcasing their genre-hopping tastes than in creating anything listenable. "I Love London," a shout-out to the less celebrated corners of the capital, is a messy, grime-fueled slab of hipster nonsense, "I Do This Everyday" misguidedly attempts to revive the nu-metal scene with an ear-shattering mix of shrieking guitars, ambient bleeps, and yelping vocals, while "Swallow" starts out nicely as a blissful chill-out ballad before the ubiquitous, wobbly basslines drop to kickstart a turgid slice of dubstep. But when the album calms down, it's a treat. "Plage," a charming tale of young love set against a backdrop of calypso guitars and Afro-beat rhythms, recalls Vampire Weekend at their finest, "Champion Sound" is a gorgeous, summery slice of Balearic-tinged dancehall based on Basque folk piece "Sagar Dantza," while "At Home" combines lullaby-esque synths with enchanting folk-pop melodies to produce the best kids TV theme that never was. Star of Love could never be accused of being boring, but from its tale of inception to its constant attempts at kookiness, it all feels a little too calculated. However, there's enough potential here to suggest that if they stop trying so hard, they could be a force to be reckoned with.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien