2017 is looking like it’s going to be a crazy busy year for the members of the new rock supergroup Crystal Fairy. Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover’s main gig, The Melvins, is working on releasing two new albums, Crover is going on tour with Redd Kross, and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’s recently reunited band At the Drive-In will tour in March and release its first LP in 17 years in May. Add the fiery feminist known as Teri Gender Bender (born Teresa Suarez), whose credits include Mexican garage punksters Le Butcherettes and Bosnian Rainbows (a side project with Rodriguez-Lopez), and you now have a truly explosive army of musicians recording this new self-titled release, out tomorrow, February 24, on Ipecac Recordings.
The excitement around this release is understandable. When you combine the always adventurous metal chops of the two core members of The Melvins with a veteran of the even more wild and influential groups such as The Mars Volta and ATDI, and mix that with a hotshot singer who grew up idolizing the likes of Bikini Kill, you better believe the end result of their collaboration is anything but dull. Speaking of Bikini Kill, the whole idea of this project was sparked by Bender Gender joining The Melvins to cover the BK classic “Rebel Girl” during 2015 Melvins/Le Butcherettes tour dates. (Le Butcherettes also opened for Faith No More in the spring of 2015, and in fact, my introduction to Teri and her group was seeing their impressive, raucous set in Boston in May of that year.)
This 11-tune tour de force starts off with the driving, chunky metal of “Chiseler.” A wild Osborne guitar solo and intense vocals by Gender Bender sets the tone for the rest of the way. She had never before tackled the world of heavy metal but on this release, she sounds like a natural (even more so than Lady Ga Ga with Metallica, I dare say). Her badassery continues on “Necklace of Divorce” and “Moth Tongue,” where her vocal range ups the ante to sound more like a raspy Geddy Lee than (Bikini Kill’s) Kathleen Hanna.
“Under Trouble” is where the record starts to lose some steam. I’m all for taking a loud album down a notch or two, but this tune tries to be a bit ghostly and then rock a little. In the end, it doesn’t achieve much of anything significant. “Bent Teeth” chugs the mood back up to the metal side, while “Vampire X-Mas” stays heavy but still allows Gender Bender to showcase her punk rock vocal chops. One just wishes that this album closer was longer than 2:23.
Leaving a listener wanting more is always a good thing – from the musician’s view, of course. It’s hard to achieve, especially for musicians that have been around as long as Osborne and Crover have (over 30 years). It’s even more amazing that a “supergroup” like Crystal Fairy has done so here with this debut. Let’s hope for their sake as much as ours, that this isn’t a one-off. But even if it ends up being so, Crystal Fairy should still go down as a late career highlight for The Melvins maestros and a breakout performance for Teri Gender Bender. Stream the whole thing now at Rolling Stone.
Keep up with the band via the Facebook link above, and check out the YouTube (audio) link for “Drugs on the Bus” below.