Crystal Stilts – “Delirium Tremendous” (Stereogum Premiere)

Crystal Stilts have always been masters of building arresting songs around Brad Hargett’s voice — a rich baritone that sounds like Morrissey dreaming about Ian Curtis — first with sparkling post-punk, then with a cinematic take on roadhouse rock ‘n’ roll. “Delirium Tremendous,” the band’s new single on Sacred Bones, continues the trajectory toward rollicking open-road music started on last year’s Nature Noir. It’s a groovy bit of keyboard-inflected psychedelia interrupted by floating interlude out of the John Lennon playbook. Guitarist JB Townsend offered some perspective on the song’s place in Crystal Stilts’ progression:

The song is, in my mind, a real quintessential Stilts track. It also acts as a fulcrum from our last record, which is relatively delicate, to our next record that will be more rocking. It’s representative of our style without sounding like a copy of previous songs. It really takes a deeper look into 1970’s New York punk traditions, complete with actual garbage can percussion. The bridge is a near death taking you half way into heaven or hell, but then life takes you back to the city.

Over music like this, Hargett’s bellows sound an awful lot like Jim Morrison, all the more because he’s been reading Aldous Huxley. The song’s title references both delirium tremens (Latin for “shaking frenzy”) and mysterium tremendum, defined like so in Huxley’s The Doors Of Perception: “The literature of religious experience abounds in references to the pains and terrors overwhelming those who have come, too suddenly, face to face with some manifestation of the mysterium tremendum. In theological language, this fear is due to the in-compatibility between man’s egotism and the divine purity, between man’s self-aggravated separateness and the infinity of God.” Hargett offers further explanation:

Delirium Tremendous is not just a play on delirium tremens, but Mysterium Tremendum and the song is about basically the fact that those types of unifying, numinous states are usually reached through a delirium of some kind. I have this weird old book/pamphlet of chants and prayers, where there’s lots of repetition of whatever/whomever is being addressed. So it’s meant to be just like a chant or prayer. A formula.

Check out “Delirium Tremendous” below.

“Delirium Tremendous” is out today on Sacred Bones. Purchase it here, and check out Crystal Stilts on tour:

6/14 Washington, DC @ Rock and Roll Hotel * @
6/15 Baltimore, MD @ Ottobar *
6/16 Pittsburgh, PA @ Cattivo *
6/17 Cleveland, OH @ Mahall’s *
6/18 Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle *
6/19 Ann Arbor, MI @ The Warehouse *
6/20 Toronto, ON @ The Garrison (NXNE)
6/21 Montreal, QC @ Il Motore
6/22 Portland, ME @ Space Gallery
6/27 Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right #

* with Juan Wauters
@ with Craft Spells
# with Christines

[Photo by Ashleigh Dye.]