Release Date: Sep 14, 2010
Record label: Fat Possum
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
It’s tough being a buzz band in the digital age, where the heavy presence of the Internet can make or break you. The San Diego-based noise-pop duo Crocodiles has been a blogosphere darling since No Age backed its 2008 debut, and the band seems to be coping well with the heavy expectations. Yes, the distortion might be heavy, but when juxtaposed with soaring synths and Brandon Welchez’s echoing vocals, Sleep Forever creates a kaleidoscopic landscape much more intricate than the duo’s previous effort.
Crocodiles' sophomore album, Sleep Forever, finds them honing in on melodies. With Simian Mobile Disco's James Ford (who also produced albums by the Klaxons, the Arctic Monkeys, and Peaches) behind the boards, the duo’s music is glossier and more digitized -- yet Ford manages to retain the sense of grit that put them on the noise pop map. With the wall of static dialed back a notch, the songs breathe more, allowing for Welchez and Rowell to construct some of their most immediate material.
You could practically hear a better record trying to crawl out of Crocodiles' 2009 debut, Summer of Hate. For all its barbed melodies and immersive murk, Hate was mired by a reverence for its influences-- the dark jangle pop of the Jesus and Mary Chain and Echo and the Bunnymen, mostly-- that bordered on mimeograph. Its songs were decently crafted, the production fittingly dank.
In his book I Shot a Man in Reno, music journalist Graeme Thomson documents the history of death in popular music, focusing on how popular artists deal with the topic. Despite death being an age-old artistic fascination, Thomson reveals that artists rarely ever illustrate the more brutal truths about the subject, choosing instead to take a distanced view. This is not to say that such songs should be dismissed; Thomson also argues that death songs are as much a part of pop music as love songs are.
If being in a great band was a series of boxes one needed to tick, Crocodiles would be doing more than riding the success of their moderately received debut, Summer of Hate. With vaguely apt comparisons to Jesus and Mary Chain, Spaceman 3 and The Velvet Underground, uber-producer James Ford at the helm, and Ray Bans permanently affixed to singer Brandon Welchez's face – one might believe that the latter half of 2010 would be Crocodiles' time to shine. Having moved from a duo to a five piece, a fuller, more brash, less punk sound emerges from their recording sessions in Joshua Tree, CA.
If the title of Crocodiles’ second album is a thin euphemism for finality — an unimaginative but probably fair estimation, I think — then that’s as much of a corner as this band is willing to cut. From the caustic lyrics to its high-octane delivery of electroclash and punk rock scorchers, Sleep Forever doesn’t beat around the bush. Having snagged a sliver of the limelight around the same time that fellow southern California ruffians Crystal Antlers, HEALTH, and No Age were turning heads with similarly brash, prismatic garage rock mutations, Crocodiles have regrouped after the lukewarm response to their debut and realigned their focus, taking on some weighty themes with pointed observations all channeled through a hard-line approach to studio recording.
A hazy mix of fuzzed out guitars, whirling organs and waves of reverb greet the listener on Sleep Forever, Crocodiles’ second full-length. The follow-up to 2009’s Summer Of Hate is a more refined example of the San Diego duo’s raw, punk-influenced sound, and it represents a move towards more psychedelic vibes. It starts off with “Mirrors,” a slow building track full of hypnotic synths, airy drumbeats and gritty guitar fuzz.
A band heading towards maturity via streamlined electronic means. Andrzej Lukowski 2010 The paradoxical thing about some of music’s more noted dealers in feedback is that their studio recordings are often as genteel as the live experience is cacophonous. This most obviously applies to shoegaze bands – frail and ethereal on record, painfully loud in person – but even the likes of the early Jesus and Mary Chain were far suppler in the studio than their deafening gigs suggested.
Buried in fuzz and slathered in reverb, Sleep Forever could be Crocodiles making their bid for voice of the no-fi generation—or at least a plea for their noise to not get lost in a sea of, well, other noise. The one-two punch of album openers "Mirrors" (a gradually blossoming pop gem fueled by chirping synthesizers and a wall of guitars) and "Stoned To Death" (based on a slow, stomping drum reminiscent of the Monks after a handful of downers) hint that the band might have what it takes to stand out among the pack. As the album plays out, Crocodiles tend to focus on the latter song type, sounding as if the Brian Jonestown Massacre (minus the fist fights) smoked a ton of weed in a cave before firing up the four-track—which is fine, really.