CRX At The Echo With Queen Kwong And Collapsing Scenery, Friday September 13th 2019
On Friday night, CRX were having a release party at the Echo for their new album, and before them, two bands played in front of plenty of impatient Strokes fans.
Carré Callaway calls herself a Queen, Queen Kwong, and she likes to inject a large dose of mystery in her music. She and her band were opening for CRX, and I don’t think I saw her face very well even once. She started her set with a stomping noisy number letting an exotic loop escape, building an anxious tension before her furious howl started to battle with a noise guitar. Her band was loud and she was elusive the entire time, moving fast in between the rare rays of light, hair in the face, dancing in the shadows, blending a dark form of semi-industrial noise rock with heavy beats, disturbing bass lines and haunting moody soundscapes. Her visceral vocals had a way to surprise the crowd with a series of aaah! during her tortured and intriguing songs, giving a raw and almost brutal performance. While bathing in plain darkness, the set was filled with experimental synth, punk guitars screaming distortions, sinister bass lines and sonic explosions which worked like cathartic moments. Discovered by Trent Reznor when she was just 17, she toured with Nine Inch Nails in 2005 and has since released two full-length albums. On Friday night, she played a few songs of her 2018 ‘Love Me To Death’, revealing a subtle balance between melancholic to deserted vocals (‘the Happiest Place’) and violent electric storms, and this gave to her style an unclassifiable and quite unique quality. Her too-short set was a good introduction into her bleak world of interesting dark hooks, intense freak-outs, and dramatic abrupt dances.
Collapsing Scenery seem to play quite often as I have seen them a few times lately, as recently as the Echo Park Rising days. As usual, they had set up their own drapery scene on the side of the main stage, with laser and visual projections to go with their experimental soundscapes. Their sound was as unique as ever, surprising people who had never seen them before. As difficult as it is to describe it, they play a very busy noise-rock-electronica with unexpected samplings, borrowing from many genres, a sort of condensed amalgam of post-punk, electronic-industrial, dissonant synths, chaotic hip hop, and gothic techno. You can call them ‘artsy punk project’, but their set was once again very evocative and cinematic, with melodies crashing against drum machines and real drumming. Above everything, singer Reggie Debris’ hardcore theatrics were once again the focus of their futuristic weirdness, while his vocal range seemed to have diversified a bit more, adding dark baritone tones to their post-apocalypse reveries,
But the crowd was obviously there to see CRX, the side project of The Strokes’ guitarist Nick Valensi. In the end, it may be the ultimate desire of any person who belongs to a famous band, do his or her own thing, and if Julian Casablancas has the Voidz, guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. has a solo career, bassist Nikolai Fraiture has Summer Moon, and drummer Fabrizio Moretti is part of the supergroup Little Joy, Valensi has CRX, a project he started a few years ago with guitarist Darian Zahedi, bassist Jon Safley, keyboardist Brad Oberhofer and drummer Ralph Alexander.
After a Josh-Homme-produced debut album, ‘New Skin’, released in 2016, CRX has just released ‘Peek’, last month, a 10-song collection produced this time by Shane Stoneback (who also produced Vampire Weekend and Sleigh Bells). On Friday night, they played all of them, starting with ‘Love Me Again’ a pulsatile dance-y track haunted by Nick Valensi’s dark and imperturbable tone. All night long, there was this infectious disco beat flirting with a real darkness under layered instrumentations, if the music was reminiscent of the Strokes’ angular guitars (you are not the guitarist of the Strokes for several decades for nothing), there was sometimes a touch of Queens of the Stone Age here and there,… since Homme was just mentioned.
‘We’re All Alone’ was mixing a tough disco vibe under industrial synths and melancholic vocals, while ‘New Obsession’ definitively opened a large dancefloor with strident guitars, a catchy chorus, and a rather familiar ‘80s influence. Some songs like ‘Get Close’ were trying dissonant guitars over rather nonchalant dance-y tempos. You could feel multi-influences coming from the music, from garage rock to dance-pop, equally dominated by synths and guitars with plenty of hooks, a touch of weirdness and a constant dance vibe which clearly accelerated during ‘Crash’ and its Strokes-y punk feel… It was even amusing to listen to Nick Valensi’s voice and recognize some Casablanca dragging intonations, but he played a convincing frontman, without any theatricality or antics, he stayed very much in his role of musician in charge of his instrument.
The band had a slick delivery, they were tight and focused, while their respective musicianships were much more sophisticated than what we usually call ‘garage rock’. As they were going to the essential with a minimum of talking, and just a few friendly interactions with the crowd, the dancefloor became much rowdier toward the end of the set, with the older songs bringing bluesier guitars on ‘Broken Bones’, and punkier assaults during ‘On Edge’.
On stage, Nick Valensi the frontman feels, very probably, quite differently than Nick Valensi the lead guitarist of the Strokes. However, it’s difficult to separate the two, and it’s probably no exaggeration to say that a lot of people were there because he is precisely the guitarist in this famous band of the ‘00s. But Valensi looked confident about his material and rightly so, so confident that they didn’t even come back on stage for an encore. They had played the show with a certain urgency, even a sort of nervousness, maybe because it’s still a bit intimidating to be a guitarist-turned frontman playing his new material in front of an adoring crowd.
Love Me Again
We‘re All Alone
Back and Forth