Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Crocodiles Make Noise Pop In California

Although the San Diego-based pop noise band came together in 2008, core members Charles Rowell and Brandon Welchez met better than a decade before. Even as teenagers, they had similar interests.

To hear Welchez tell it, they wanted to play music and change the world. Both of them hung out around at the same music scenes. Both of them were political enough to make rallies and protests a pastime. And eventually, after drifting in and out of the same or similar crowds, both of them started volunteering at a local club at the University of California, San Diego.

Hanging out and volunteering at the same venue is how they got to know each other. Although they were playing in different punk bands, they began laying the ground work for the future. First Welchez tried to recruit Rowell to his band and then just decided to break up both bands and start anew.

The Crocodiles are really a duo with guests and sometimes members. 

Even when the Crocodiles started booking gigs in support of their fourth release, Crimes Of Passion, they started as a duo. But things have slowly changed. They've since added bass, drums, and keyboards with musicians sometimes including members from Blank Dogs, Cat Power, and the Dum Dum Girls helping out.

The latter is no surprise, of course. Welchez is married to Kristin Gundred, a.k.a. Dee Dee Penny. And he used to play with the Dum Dum Girls too. It's not even uncommon to see the bands on the same bill.

When Welchez and Rowell aren't playing live, they are more likely to pull in guests on album. And they recruited several this time. Gregg Foreman (Delta 72), Cat Power, Josh Welchez, and Afrodyete (Breakestra) all make appearances. Given how often Welchez and Dee Dee Penny support other bands, it's not hard.

What is hard sometimes is seeing the Crocodiles give their album a fair shake across the entire length of it, which is why the band usually lands on my almost reviewed list. This time is an exception. I Like It In The Dark was too good to let it go unnoticed.

The song does a great job selling everyone on a zealous noise pop groove with gospel backing only to fade out for something unexpected. Welchez keeps going with a haunting bit of verse belted out like a beatnik poet. It almost feels like it isn't supposed to be there. It doesn't make sense; I'm glad it's there.

The balance of the album is equally eccentric but also more hit and miss. There are some great turmoil-laced songs like Gimme Come Annihilation and Me And My Machine Gun. But then there are simmering noise pop numbers like She Splits Me Up and Heavy Metal Clouds. They don't roll right, especially with one sporting a borrowed melody.

Teardrop Guitar makes for better brevity while Un Chant D'Amour sweeps in with the right stuff for atmospheric finish. It's sometime during that song when you wonder how you landed here from something much more punk like Cockroach. That's what makes the Crocodiles work. They have a distinct sound and still manage to drift from one extreme to the next.

Crimes Of Passion By The Crocodiles Smiles 4.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

The album isn't anywhere near perfect and doesn't try too hard to be original. But what Crimes Of Passion does exceedingly well is break new ground for a band that is easier to appreciate when you see them live. Some might even say a live album would do them right, even if Sune Rose Wagner (The Raveonettes) was a benefit as producer.

Crimes of Passion by the Crocodiles is available on Amazon. You can also find the album on iTunes or order the CD from Barnes & Noble. The band has been busy touring all over Europe. Maybe they will have time to kick out a video when they get home. In the meantime, check their schedule on Facebook.
blog comments powered by Disqus