11 April 2009

REVIEW: The Crystal Caravan - The Crystal Caravan (2009, Garageland Records)

After two reviews covering music that is spacier, more electronics, perhaps a bit more expansive in some ways, it feels to this reviewer like it’s time to rock out with our…


Where did that come from?

Anyway…while I certainly love long, expansive tracks, byzantine song structures, and lyrics sung in different languages, I also have a love for psychedelia and 1970’s rock. Thankfully there are a few newer bands out there making music in just such a style…Black Bonzo’s latest album is the Uriah Heep album that never was, and Wolfmother has released some strong, if slightly stylistically unoriginal hard rock. The Crystal Caravan works in just this arena…loads of organ and keys, rough and ready, preacher in the wilderness vocals, and a rhythm section that is four to the floor/balls to the wall from open to close. Their name evokes strong 1970’s connections as well…as a big fan of the Doors, I’d like to think that it’s referring to two of my favourite songs from their earlier albums ("The Crystal Ship" and "Spanish Caravan," respectively). But don’t look for much subtlety here, ladies and gentlemen…this is raw rock and roll at its most primal.

Oh, we get some gentleness…”Tombstone Eyes” offers up some beautiful, glistening arpeggios and a touch of country vibe here and there, in the same way that a song like the Rolling Stone’s “Salt of the Earth” is country-ish. There’s also some gorgeous piano playing that again reminds me of the Stones and Ian McLagan. But this is pretty much the proverbial exception that proves the rule on this self-titled debut release…elsewhere we get wailing guitar and breakneck rhythms on “Down Under,” strong echoes of the Steve Miller Band on “Dead Inside” (well, at least on the opening bit), and a fun almost syncopated bit that opens the otherwise pretty straightforward “A New Time is Coming.”

Niklas "RG" Gustafsson’s vocals occasionally take on a similar timbre to Jim Morrison’s, but his voice is thankfully not a clone (not like anyone could really copy Morrison’s vocals from an inflection and delivery standpoint). Björn Lohmander and Stefan Bränberg are both solid players, with suitably fuzzy lead work and buzzy, crunchy rhythm guitar playing liberally mixed through. But for me, the musician highlights are certainly Jonas Lindsköld’s organ playing and the loose but powerful rhythm section of Pierre Svensson and Christopher Olsson on bass and drums respectively. Music like this lives and dies as a result of whatever pulse is resting at the center of the musical beast, and The Crystal Caravan has a smoking rhythm section in these two. Of special note are the percussive accents and colours added by Annika Bränberg throughout…her conga and hand percussion really adds to the sonic mix.

There’s not a lot to analyse here, people…The Crystal Caravan isn’t about deftly orchestrated unison sections or song structures in alternating 7’s and 9’s. You’re not getting cosmic lyrics about a group of pixies living in teapots, or made up languages and 9 album arcs about the ecological destruction of the world, and the returning settlers from another world…or about marmots coming out of the sky and standing there. You are however getting some fun and guilt-free hard rock that has both eyes set firmly on the golden days of the 1970’s, where sex, drugs and rock and roll ruled in equal parts. Break out the joss sticks and the bell bottoms…The Crystal Caravan is here to rock out.


Produced by Dennis Lyxzén. Mixed and Mastered by Pelle Henricsson at Tonteknik Recording Umeå, Sweden. Recorded by Björn Lohmander and Stefan Bränberg at Caravan Audio Umeå, Sweden. Backing vocals on track 1,3,5,6,7,9 by Dennis Lyxzén. Backing vocals on track 3,7 by Lars Eriksson. Photos by Jonas Lindsköld. Layout by Björn Lohmander and Jonas Lindsköld. All songs are written and performed by The Crystal Caravan.

1. Between The Mountain And The Spoon (03:27)

2. Tombstone Eyes (03:09)

3. Down Under (04:23)

4. Wicked Mind (04:21)

5. Dead Inside (04:11)

6. A New Time is Coming (03:21)

7. Train Song (03:51)

8. Flying High (Or So It Seems) (03:03)

9. Monkey (03:50)

10. Desert King (08:57)

Niklas "RG" Gustafsson - Vocals

Björn Lohmander - Guitar

Stefan Bränberg - Guitar

Jonas Lindsköld - Organs

Pierre Svensson - Bass

Annika Bränberg - Percussion

Christopher Olsson - Drums

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