Now that Crystal Desert has dissolved, Nail Houses — the creative outlet of the band’s former bassist Christian Smith — demands more attention than ever.
Parade, Smith’s debut EP as Nail Houses, doesn’t remove itself too far from the sound of its parent project. However, it emphasizes the manic, paranoid inclinations of the goth punk outfit in an immediate and personal way. Though the production assistance of Simon Nicol (AKA Leava) definitely sharpens the vision of the band’s already-interesting early demos, Parade is very clearly the product of one mind. It’s claustrophobic industrial post-punk that explores inner anxieties of a troubling era, using direct language while creating a timeless message. The lyrics clearly address the current American political climate, while using enough vagueness for these songs to be relevant again many years down the road. In some ways, these tracks are reminiscent of certain protest songs of Bob Dylan: specific to a point while recognizing that there will always be incompetence and corruption in politics.
Smith’s delivery is appropriately unsettling, employing a dense blend of shredding guitars, raging drum machines, and intense vocals. Where the EP sometimes falls flat is in lyrical execution. In several occasions, Smith attempts to pack too many words into a line, resulting in a couple of uneven and awkward vocal moments (for example, “multi-celled organisms” takes up way too much space in the bridge of “Stray My Eyes”).
However, these moments do little to sour the experience of the whole EP. Nail Houses effectively carries on the spirit of Crystal Desert in its own unique fashion: fascinated with darkness, but much more interested in positive change. Parade is a gripping collection of thoughtfully communicated distress signals from one trapped in a frightening society. It’s tasteful malcontent — pessimism that doesn’t just wallow in the darkness of the world. Rather, Nail Houses points a finger at the responsible parties and calls for action.