Much like the image of Brits sipping their Earl Grey tea from a vintage china cup, to the UK, rock bands formed in LA are fascinatingly exotic. Compared to New York, it could be a cultural distance notion maybe where the Californian dreamer’s aura just can’t be replicated. Joining a beyond belief line of exports, listing only three here: The Doors, Beach Boys, and Bangles, is quintet CRX, conveying a technically competent, yet euphonically accessible output.
The baby of idol Nick Valensi was born as a project to rediscover oneself musically. A desire to take things back to those spit and sawdust clubs days was apparent where growth could be nourished from the ground up rather than the stadiums and element of comfort and familiarity created with his Big Apple brothers The Strokes. Seven years on, and it has attracted gifted musicians, Darian Zahedi, Brad Oberhofer, Ralph Alexander, and Jon Safley, who have pieced together like a jigsaw and gone on to gain positive attention and prosper.
At first, Valensi savoured the freedom and acknowledged the vulnerability of creating as an individual armed with an explorative opportunity to discover what creative direction felt true. This guided album number one in 2016, New Skin, with Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme, the rightful guy to produce. A mention must be made of the cover art by Boneface depicting the most badass tiger around in sumptuous hues of hot pink and orange, and a coveted leather jacket; we’re already off to a roaring start. Track Ways To Fake It eases you in. Buffed with polish, it is understatedly good, which is the vibration that the band emits as a whole.
From there on in, attitude is present, and dirtier, sinister tone calls out in the likes of Broken Bones and Give it Up. Show stealer Anything is an inquisitive thing of lushness that musically could be a sweet love song. However, the lyrics portray a different tale: “I just nod my head, and I just say yes. Gotta get away, get a new address.” Slow Down emits that reggae rhythm found in rock hits Gungan Din by The Libertines. Altogether the pacey rhythms, skilled hooks and riffs, and overall effect of each instrument is tight, tight, tight.
Onward and upwards to this August and the release of Peek, indulged with its Duggie Field artwork, and revealing CRX as a collaborative unit ready to occupy genres of unlikeness and decades. Synths at the helm, the LP achieved that feat of retaining the band’s essence charting new territories. The spangly drum beat of We’re All Alone conjures up imagery of a video game in Vapourware colours, as you cruise down a palm tree-lined road, top-down, shades on. For New Obsession, the lyrics subtly allow the listener to insert whatever new obsession they like: “I sleep in here, and then I dream and fantasize, raise and agonize.” The moody middle eight lifts the song to a another shelf of mind space.
Steadier, less pulsating tracks have been assembled in the numbers of Get Close and Golden Age, yet spark is restored in spades for Wet Paint and Crash, all with those big, sweeping choruses. Psychedelia can be found in closer Love Me Again and a favoured track created in Falling: The mid-tempo song uses the bass to hook you in as the tune lolls around your head all day. So it seemed a likely match for Shmu, aka Sam Chown, the touring drummer for Vinyl Williams, to remix the track, shared on October 10th. As an investigator of retro Electronica and experimental Pop, The boys knew their song would be in good hands as Shmu distorted the original with random effects, added an industrial, jagged edge but funky feel. It acts as a complement to the original.
There’s something about CRX that is authentically and perfectly vintage. However, there’s nothing archaic about the five-piece. It’s slick, it’s accomplished, with the view that there is still plenty up their sleeves to receive from the group. When the time comes, a visit to the UK to play for us, with a warm reception and a cup of tea always at the ready, will please followers and grow their fan base further. Much like the band, I have no pretentious or fancy ending here. They rock.
Article by Beverley Knight