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Crystal Castles (III) (Casablanca) 

Crystal Castles' second eponymous album was one of the best of 2010, and while (III) is a spirited successor, it doesn't quite reach the heights of its forebears.

Castles brainchild Ethan Kath has gone on record as saying that they enacted a strict "no computers in the studio" policy for this third effort in order to achieve a radically different sound. While (III) may sound a tad cleaner on tracks like "Kerosene" or "Violent Youth," it pretties up the aesthetics of their first two albums rather than abandons them. They may sound more like My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult than Skinny Puppy now, but they haven't entered entirely new territory.

The suffocating blasts of digital squelch we know and love make their appearance on "Insulin" and a handful of other songs, but somehow, they're less gloriously dirty, with a bit too much reliance on garbled-tape-running-backward effects that can get annoying. The album sounds too much like it is malfunctioning rather than willfully deconstructing.

The Crystal Castles I love is the band with an often exquisite sense of bad taste—just look at their video for lead single "Plague," which lifts images from Andrzej uawski's bat-shit-crazy horror masterpiece Possession. If (III) has an overarching failing, it's that it is too polite. Songs like "Sad Eyes" could easily play in some slick discothèque full of pampered co-eds. That's just not what I want from my Crystal Castles records.

More by Sean Bottai

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