Crystal Castles is a well-known Canadian band founded by Ethan Kath and Alice Glass in 2003. They performed experimental electronic music, and started gaining popularity from their very first tracks, although Ethan himself said that it was mostly an accident.
What made the public so fond of the noisy and chaotic tracks? Today, let’s try to figure it out on the example of the most famous songs of the band.
The first joint track of Ethan and Alice was the song “Alice Practice”. It was recorded as a sample in 2006, after which they decided to put it on the Internet. At that time Ethan and Alice were just starting to work together and were trying to find the right sound, but to their own surprise, the song caught the interest of the listeners. In the end, the duo decided that they should refine it: as a result, it became their first full-length track, which was released the same year in their 4-song mini-album of the same name. That’s when the duo’s first steps towards fame and worldwide popularity began.
The song really stood out for its strange, somewhat “annoying” sound, but that’s exactly what the authors wanted. Presumably, the whole vocal part was obtained while Alice was warming up in the recording studio: hence the name “Alice’s Practice”. At least, that’s what Ethan claimed, while Alice herself already after the breakup of the band said that he only belittled her in this way. The girl claimed that he laughed at her, calling her singing “microphone practice”, and by saying that the recording was “accidental”, he belittled her part in the creation of the song. Whose story is true, however, we’re unlikely to ever know.
The song itself is filled with a rather dark meaning. We hear Alice’s own story about her fate, about her life, although she never talks about it directly. In the lyrics we can often see her tendency towards self-destructive behavior, for example, in one of the first lines she says, “Soon the scars will heal.” It is not entirely clear whether she is referring to scars inflicted more recently, which will soon heal, or whether she is recalling an experience from long ago. She says, “Instead of drowning in the sack, I’m living. Like Alice. I’m dying.” This encompasses her whole self as such. It’s worth noting that “Alice” is not the singer’s real name, so in this way she is saying that changing essence and becoming Alice is better for her than being abandoned and forgotten. She is both saddened by her change, by the death of her past self, but at the same time she has already come to terms with it. This is her first monologue as “Alice”: even the song begins with the simple words “Hello” and ends with an equally simple “Bye”, as if in this way she is talking to us as if we were new acquaintances.
Following their high-profile debut, the band started releasing many tracks one after the other, experimenting with style and lyrics, but among the numerous variety, the song “Kerosene” is still the most popular.
It was included in their third and last album recorded with the participation of Alice. This time the theme of the album was “oppression”. In the future, Alice said that after the release of the second album, many terrible things happened to her and her loved ones, resulting in deep despair and helplessness. She realized that this greatly influenced her lyrics, but at the same time she tried her best to convey the emotions she was feeling.
All these thoughts are clearly visible in the lyrics of the song “Kerosene”. The track earned its fame for its dark and clinging sound, filled with unconcealed feelings of anger and rage. The authors of the song challenge society, denying its norms and trying to hold it accountable.
The lyrical heroine of the track talks to a man desperately in need of help and comfort, and she tries to help him. “I’ll shield you from everything I’ve seen and wash your wounds with saline, kerosene.” The kerosene in this case can be seen as a metaphor for the burning desire for change and the destruction of the old ways. The lyrics point us to how society refuses to take responsibility for its own actions, ignoring the pain and suffering caused, instead offering conditional mercy. It makes no effort to truly understand or help people who have experienced the hardships of this life, shutting them up and offering quick fixes when what people need most at that moment is support and compassion.
Alice doesn’t hold back her emotions, trying her best to convey her own feelings, and the intense electronic sound only emphasizes this, creating the rebellious mood of the track. The lyrics convey the feeling of loneliness and unwillingness to submit to a society that tries to drown her out.
This is one of the band’s most famous tracks, which resonated in people’s hearts even despite the duo’s peculiar style. Although the band broke up many years ago, still many people listen and know them. By defying the accepted standards and paving their own way, Crystal Castles were able to leave their mark in the history of music and will not soon be forgotten.