Shinning and Stroking in Sweaters as if Seattle Were London


When a guitar pop band gets tagged “timeless,” it usually means no sense of humor. Crystal Skulls’ debut, Blocked Numbers, has humor, if of the deeply droll kind of four cardigan-covered chaps who wish they were from London. It rains nearly as much in their real digs, Seattle, so that must be where the manifest mope comes from. Singer Christian Wargo sways around the crystalline guitar lines like a good little Morrissey-ite. But the “timeless” here comes from the fact that Wargo is just as much ’30s crooner and ’60s nightclub cutup. He tries earnestly to remind a wounded gal pal that “you’re not a hussy anymore.” And on the CD’s apex, “Every Little Bit,” as the final chorus swells, Wargo sings, “There’s no way we can make it out together,” as if all the boo-hoo is really ballyhoo, lousy relationships as glorious pop inspiration.

No doubt Crystal Skulls first perked ears because they’re basically the Strokes with a working washer and dryer (don’t put those sweaters in there though, lads): the Smiths nods, reggae hints, the Television-sans-jams guitar play, the mope. But space-age bachelor pad keys tinkle throughout, and when names like Steely Dan or Ambrosia come leaking out of the unconscious, well, it’s apparent this ain’t your little sister’s Strokes, but probably will be once they land on the O.C. soundtrack.

Crystal Skulls play Bowery Ballroom April 29.

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