Topman is a battery farm, churning out a million clones,
They’re young and middle-class, each one with an iPhone,
Their tees are screaming slogans that no one can decipher,
They’re the plague of rats and Topman is the Pied Piper,
They’re all so attractive and with far more style than me,
They’ve got better hair and clothes and they’re only just fifteen,
They saunter round a showroom that is far too brightly lit,
Their jeans are tight enough to show the outlines of their dicks,
Their clothes are just the same as those hanging on the rails,
They’d buy a belt of Plasticine if Topman had it for sale,
They look just like the models that gurn as though in pain,
Apparently a look of mild discomfort’s all-the-rage,
But the adverts tell me that their lives are happier than mine,
And I could be happy too for a mere fifteen ninety-nine,
I only came in here to buy a half-decent pair of jeans,
But now I’m leaving empty-handed and with lower self-esteem,
So bomb the place until it’s nothing but a crater in the ground,
Destroy it so that in the rubble almost nothing will be found,
But amid the chaos there will be a sign of what once was there,
A scrap of an ironic tee, and a wisp of slicked-back hair.

crystalcastlesToday, Crystal Castles front-woman, Alice Glass, announced via social media that she was quitting the electronic duo, thus bringing the group to an end. Though Glass has vowed to continue as a solo artist, the news of Crystal Castles’ demise is nevertheless a bitter pill to swallow.

The Canadian duo, consisting of Glass and Ethan Kath, released their debut album, (I), in 2008, swiftly becoming popular with scenesters and indie kids all over the world. Their unique sound, a sort of grunge-electronica, is distinct thanks to the combination Glass’s distorted vocals and Kath’s glitch-tune instrumentals. Their subsequent two albums proved that the genius of (I) was no one-off. Their sound developed, and they remained both critically and commercially popular throughout their career.

What made Crystal Castles so unique in my opinion, however, was their ability to convey empathy through their music. Electronic and dance music is often labelled as ‘soulless’ by indie snobs who refuse to recognise any music that doesn’t feature a guitar as having any artistic merit. Crystal Castles bucked this trend however, rejecting the generic bleating popularised by the likes of David Guetta and Calvin Harris, and created music that felt, despite its alien-like electro sound, distinctly human.

Glass seemed to recognise this today, when as part of her statement on Facebook, she noted: “My art and my self-expression in any form has always been an attempt towards sincerity, honesty, and empathy for others.” While on first listen, the music of Crystal Castles can sound isolating, when listened to properly, it has a way of connecting with the human soul in a way that a million po-faced white boys brandishing acoustic guitars could ever manage. Their music is chaotic and confrontational, but it is always full of empathy.

Take the 2012 single, Sad Eyes, for example. It batters you with a clamour of intensity, Glass’s vocals barely audible behind the wall of noise. Yet within the track is the sound of a cry for help. As in most of Crystal Castles’ songs, the ferocious, confrontational fever of the music is a reflection of a chaotic, and often ugly, world. It is within this incoherent mess that the listener must look for beauty and aspects of the humane. On KeroseneGlass’ promise that she’ll “protect you from all the things I’ve seen” is almost lost within Kath’s disorientating electronic loops, hiding tenderness where the listener does not expect to find it. One must fight their way through the debris to find the whispers of humanity.

The cover of the band’s last album, (III), features an image of a burqa-clad woman holding an injured relative in her arms – a striking statement, but a fitting one, for an album that is all about finding beauty amid horror. The picture is an edited version of an award-winning photograph by Spanish photographer Samuel Aranda, who agreed to let the band use the image after finding their political beliefs were much the same. The image embodies both the barbaric and compassionate sides of human nature at once, much like the album itself. Despite its aggressive assault on one’s eardrums, it is filled with glimmers of hope and beauty throughout – the listener just has to find them. For the recording of this final album, the band also enforced a strict no-computers rule and limited themselves to one take per song, believing this would make for a more authentic, raw listen. In an age where dance music feels like it’s being perpetually pumped from the udders of a bloated cash cow, Crystal Castles refused to compromise their sincerity right up to the end.

And so while there is no doubt that Alice Glass will go on to produce more exciting, innovative and explosive music in the future, I cannot help but mourn the passing of Crystal Castles, the best electronic band of our generation.