(Fat Possum; 2010)
By David M. Goldstein | 4 October 2010
I’m going to spare you any superfluous angles and just cut to the chase here: if you like yourself some Jesus & Mary Chain, Spiritualized, or Primal Scream, you will absolutely find something to enjoy in the new Crocodiles record—at the very least, you’ll crack a half smile. This is one of those records, a very loud, electro-garage rock dealie with death-obsessed lyrics and, in Brandon Welchez, a too-cool-for-school vocalist whose flat voice is ideal for his genre’s requirements, namely, convincing the listener that he 1) wears sunglasses indoors, and 2) may have once dabbled in heroin. Production duties are entrusted to James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco, who does a nice enough job of filling out the band’s sound with all manner of button-pushing while providing the requisite levels of boom-bap. Sleep Forever ultimately ends up being a glammy, producer-driven electro-rock album in which the first sung lyric is “Something in the way you crucify me / Makes me smile.” Crocodiles have made the best Primal Scream album since XTRMNTR (2000).
And so, as long as the songs bang, does it really matter that the band is so shamelessly overt about their influences? I’m a sucker for this shit, and Sleep Forever is the most fun I’ve had with a druggy rock band since the last Horrors record, the Horrors being another group equally apt to worship at the altar of the “Be My Baby” drum riff. Both bands toured together in 2009, and Crocodiles obviously took something away from seeing the songs from Primary Colours (2009) played night after night. They’ve co-opted the Horrors’ love of both headphone-panning “whoosh!” effects and kraut-rock stylings for that instant dose of credibility. And is it merely coincidence that Primary Colours kicks off with “Mirror’s Image” and the opening salvo here is entitled “Mirrors”?
A slow-building motorik rocker that essentially adds verses to Primal Scream instrumental “Shoot Speed Kill Light,” “Mirrors” begins by exemplifying Crocodiles’ M.O. on their faster songs: laying down a propulsive groove capped by a sweeping sing-along chorus tailormade for PCH cruising (the band hails from Los Angeles). Penultimate track “Hearts of Love” swaps out the Scream in favor of leaning heavily on JAMC’s “Head On.” But it too somehow manages freshness, riding a snarky, glockenspiel-aided verse into a soaring bubblegum chorus while reminding the listener that the first two Black Rebel Motorcycle Club albums were actually OK. Then there’re the requisite Jason Pierce-style comedown tracks (“Girl in Black,” “All of My Hate and My Hexes Are For You”), the vengeful stompers that pile on the Farfisa organ to dangerous levels (“Stoned to Death,” “Hollow Hollow Eyes”), and, on the shimmering title track, a hybrid of both.
Sleep Forever will likely hold minimal appeal for anyone not already on the bandwagon built by Crocodiles’ high-profile forebears, but I’m guessing Crocodiles wouldn’t have it any other way. Plus, they earn major points for kicking it old school, burning through eight songs in a filler-free 36 minutes. In other words, Crocodiles deserve respect for knowing exactly what they want to sound like, for being very aware of their strengths, and, for the majority of Sleep Forever, playing to them with frightening precision.