Kingdom of the crystal kitsch

Crystal Castles
; with Bear in Heaven
; 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 9
; Firestone Live, 407-872-0066
; $20-$25


Kitsch is a powerful tool, especially when it tugs on the threadbare-sleeve-borne heart of one of the most anachronistically nostalgic cultural groups ever to make or break a band. That Crystal Castles struck an immediate chord with the self-consciously hip 18 to 30-year-old denizens of the indie blogosphere is no surprise, when looked at under that wavelength. 


Castles’ members Ethan Kath and Alice Glass were born too late to have much firsthand experience with many of their music’s cultural touchstones. The cartoon princess She-Ra, whose Crystal Castle provides the band’s moniker, and the Atari 5200, the circuit-bent soundcard that bleeps up most of the band’s glitchy backdrop, were fading from the techno-cultural zeitgeist around the time the pair would have been turning their eyes from Sesame Street and putting their hands on video-game controllers. The same can surely be said of a good swath of their fans. 


Part of America’s cultural continuum is that what is lost will again be found, usually by those who weren’t around in the first place. Kids from the ’70s got hooked on ’50s sounds and punk was born, wrapping style and sonics 20 years out of their frame of reference in a little bit of attitude and calling it a day. These days, there’s a nearly endless availability of cultural leftovers from which to pick. Six-odd decades of cool, and retroactively cool, music, film and television provide a prismatic grab bag of ideas to riff on in search of your own cool, and the Internet puts it all at your fingertips. 


Crystal Castles went with the stuff their older brothers and sisters dug, a time-honored way for kids in search of style to find a jumping-off point. Swathing their discoveries in harsh noise and disaffection paints a picture of their views on the culture they’ve co-opted. Noise is now pop culture, and pop culture is simply noise. The only thing more interesting than Crystal Castles’ exploration of this notion will be their grandkids’ exploration of Crystal Castles.

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