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Crystal Skulls – Blocked Numbers

Suicide Squeeze Records, 2005

Sometimes I surprise myself and pick up something out of a dollar bin that just screams indie rock.  You can’t even think of anything else in what this band might be about.  Pink sky?  Fluffy, upside down clouds?  This is all coded to say “I am indie and approachable, so heart me.”  (shudder)  The contents are also quite apparent if one takes a look at the record label, which is absolutely known for its indie output with bands like Minus the Bear, Modest Mouse, and Pedro the Lion.  Granted, they also have Russian Circles and the Unicorns, so I suppose one could expect something a bit more crushing if one gets an nervous feeling that the cutesy art cover is just a smokescreen.  Turns out Crystal Skulls aren’t into trickery, though.

Made up of four guys who have done this kind of thing before, Crystal Skulls deliver a pleasantly light yet well-crafted inoffensive sound.  Christian Wargo’s lackadaisical singing style is consistent throughout the record and never tries to reach a level it shouldn’t.  I suppose that feature of his vocals could be considered too safe or unimpressive, yet I have heard many modern singers try too hard to hit certain notes or affect their voices so much to make one twinge in discomfort.  Wargo has a tempered delivery and the band follows suit with a steady but not necessarily predictable musicianship.  They do sound a little like the sometimes quirky songs by Minus the Bear, but unlike that band Crystal Skulls never stray into the terribly interesting or lapse into the utterly dull with the music.  Like I said, these guys define the inoffensive sound.

And you know, some people just like that.  I found that “Hussy” was very listenable to and resembled a more sedated Strokes kind of fare.  The intro riffs of “Count Your Gold” sound as if they carry a warning, and despite the lowering of Wargo’s voice the song still carries a positive feeling by the end of it.  The band really doesn’t want to upset you, though perhaps there is weight in the lyrics somewhere.   One would really have to delve into that factor, though, to walk away from all of this with a poor attitude.  Crystal Skulls even try a more aggressive pop number in “Hard Party” which does get the listener to bob along a little faster, but no matter what slight alteration in tempo the band creates they still only come across as a good background band for busy activities.

Check out the poppy goodness on their MySpace or Last.fm page.

Crystal Skulls are a nice band but I didn’t really feel they stood out a whole lot in this record.  Most songs, although enjoyable, induced comfort but did little else for one to take much notice.  However, I do kinda want to retract my earlier blanket statement that declares Crystal Skulls typically indie.  They aren’t so much indie as they are just an easy listening pop band that happens to be modern and a bit lukewarm.  The band did manage to get out another record in 2006 before possibly disappearing for good.  I hope they’re just on a somewhat long hiatus, though, because their generally appealing sound could probably make a few more jaded music listeners give pastels a chance.

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