A thrilling and very strong yet semi-straightforward rock album from a collection of very cool weirdos.
Melvins collaborations are generally super dope, with many highlights over their storied, grungy career. One of the songs Steven Shane McDonald from Redd Kross joined the band for, "The Decay of Lying" from Basses Loaded, is as great as any of the "classic" Melvins stuff. The Melvins honestly reward their real fans with consistently great and frequent output far more than most groups, always seeking to keep things interesting.
When news broke that Buzz Osborne, Dale Crover, and Omar Rodriguez-López would back Le Butcherettes’ Teri Gender Bender, the "buzz" (no pun intended) was instantaneous. Talk about a real underground Marvel Team Up of some of the most talented musical characters out there! Thankfully metal and hard rock have become less gendered in recent years as people like Kim Kelly or Laura Pleasants made significant strides in making sure people were focused less on who are "the hottest chicks in metal" versus equality and if the music was any damn good.
Nowadays there are fewer bands with a token lady in a skimpy outfit and more records like King Woman's stuff or the Julie Christmas match-up with Cult of Luna where there is an equal playing field, and the quality of the art far supersedes any gendered marketing. The same is the case with Crystal Fairy, where Teri is far from exploited and also ends up stealing the show a lot of the time through amazing hooks and sheer force of presence. "Necklace of Divorce" dares you not to be reeled in.
The closest we have perhaps heard to such Melvins-y glory with "female vocals" up front to such an extent would be the fantastic spooky Bliss Blood vocals on "The Man With the Laughing Hand Is Dead" from the Melvins album The Crybaby. Crystal Fairy is a much more generally up-tempo and punkier group (save for a few moments like the dirgey and bad ass "Moth Tongue") but glorified Melvins boogie rock, and thick chords abound as well. "Chiseler" is especially impressive, a furious but fun song straddling post-punk, hard rock and a little hint of Black Flag "Slip It In" vibes. Rodriguez-López perhaps lent the group a bit more melodic flirtation as well, but I can't be certain. "Drugs on the Bus" is a future classic, sure to be a live favorite for a project that could potentially erupt to become a full fledged thing rather than a side project if the participants were so inclined.
Teri Gender Bender currently has one of the more theatrical and siren-like voices in rock, almost reminiscent of a sort of third, intense little sister if Kat Bjelland and KatieJane Garside were part of Teri's family tree. Teri nails her melodies a lot harder but also can do angry, raspy, bluesy alley cat vocals as well. There is a quirky poetry and yet a riot grrrl's refusal to be ignored in her approach that lends a great push and pull between punky antagonism and distant dreamer. "Sweet Self" is borderline alt-country yet is followed by a hard charger, "Vampire X-Mas", that could get crowds pogoing anywhere. You feel like the potentially esoteric Gender Bender could replace the Pythia as the new Oracle of Delphi but might prefer to playfully dodge apples in the mean living tree forest from The Wizard of Oz.
Title track "Crystal Fairy" rocks like something off of Stag with Stevie Nicks vocals, while "Secret Agent Rat" has one of the more down and dirty intros you'll hear in 2017 before some great rhythmic weirdness in the verses. It is awesome to hear how much trust and chemistry has grown between the parties involved, seeing as how this whole thing started initially simply due to Buzz and Dale jamming on Bikini Kill's "Rebel Girl" for a tour encore with Teri!
Missing from a lot of rock these days is a sense of adventure. Crystal Fairy plays to the strengths of the band members and doesn't get insanely weird but nonetheless delivers on all fronts. This is just a top notch rock album, any way you slice it.