If you didn’t know that Twisted Crystal was Guerilla Toss’s fifth LP, I wouldn’t blame you. The band didn’t really hit a wider audience until last year with the release of GT Ultra (which gained attraction after praise from a melon who shall not be named). The Boston born and now New York based quintet has been releasing music since 2010 covering a wide range of genres from punk, dance, psychedelic and art rock. And while it only comes in at 30 minutes, Twisted Crystal is an entertaining psychedelic romp with more hits than misses.
Stylistically, Twisted Crystal doesn’t mark too much of a shift from 2017’s GT Ultra. Both are short and take heavy influence from psychedelic, punk, dance, and New Wave. However, Twisted Crystal takes a slightly more laid back and poppy approach when compared to its predecessors, with less frantic drumming and softer, more melodic production.
Opener “Magic Is Easy” sets lays down a blueprint for the sonic palate the record is going for, with sci-fi synths and a booming beat. The kooky, warped synths that dance across the track are littered all over the album, creating a sense that you have just stepped upon a high-tech alien spacecraft full of blinking lights and futuristic gadgets. It is here where we’re also introduced to the cartoonish, altered vocals of frontwoman Kassie Carlson. The unique singing style and vocal mixing serve as a double-edged sword, their best being very memorable and catchy on tracks such as “Meteorological” and “Jackie’s Daughter”, while at other times seemingly getting lost in the mix of songs like “Green Apple”.
When looking at Twisted Crystal at first glance, it seems cut and dry on its intent. Weird, wonky music paired with absurd lyrics sung in the same cartoonish way but with an added theatrical style; however, there are hints to a more substantial theme if one takes a deeper delve into the lyrics. The albums bandcamp profile describes a focus on “Oracles and enigmatic egos,” and through this lens more obtuse lyrics begin to crystalize into something more tangible. The repeated refrain of ‘I want to be natural’ over rubbery guitar riffs and warbling synthesizers on stand out single “Meteorological” begin to take on a much more personal connotation when looking at it through the lens of the lead singer’s psyche, a personal mantra to oneself to try to be natural. This sentiment is seemingly reinforced on the following track “Hacking Machine,” where Carlson sings “There’s something wrong” then inquires “Is there a bug? Can it be fixed?”. The lyrical absurdity reaches its peak on “Jesus Rabbit” where over playful and almost carnival-esqe synths Carlson sing-speaks “I’m gonna die, we’re all gonna die, there not much anyone can do about that”, giving the entire track a rather demented feel as nihilistic lyrics contrast the childish production.
However, the concept of tackling the human ego is overly ambitious at times, as the production of many tracks often overpowers the vocals, making the lyrical themes seem shallow, making it seem as if the record is merely focusing on trying to be as weird as possible both lyrically and sonically.
Ultimately Twisted Crystal is another solid album in Guerilla Toss’s discography. It provides more of the same psychedelic funky fun the group demonstrated on GT Ultra, with tons of catchy tracks in a slower more digestible form. And while the group may have bitten off more than they could chew concept wise, Twisted Crystal is still most definitely worth giving a shot for those willing to take a step on the spaceship.