Crocodiles - Dreamless

by Jim Cunnar Rating:8 Release Date:2016-10-21

In this day and age of diminishing record sales and the importance of touring to make a living, any band that is able to release multiple long-players has to have some chops. San Diego’s Crocodiles fits the bill, having released five albums since 2009. 2012’s Endless Flowers was particularly excellent, a brilliant collection of fuzzy psych pop.  Their sixth album Dreamless sees the band go in a darker, moodier direction both lyrically and musically, a move which makes for a more challenging listen. 

Prior singles like “Bubblegum Trash”, “Peroxide Hearts” and “I Like It In The Dark” were Jesus and Mary Chain throwbacks, songs which exuded a certain cool swagger that were just plain fun.  Core members Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowell can craft songs full of distorted noisy guitar riffs with the best of their contemporaries. Dreamless is a significant departure from their prior formula, with the guitars taking a back seat to more synths and electronics.

Opener “Telepathic Lover” layers jangly guitars with tambourines and dreamy keyboards, punctuated by Welchez’s vocal ability to channel Marc Almond, a song which would fit nicely on any prior Crocodiles release.  The skies begin to darken on follow up “Maximum Penetration”, warning “Don’t let the creeps get you down” over a Spoon-infused groove.  “Welcome To Hell”, whose beginning baseline pays homage to MJ’s Billie Jean, begins the descent into the rabbit hole and “I’m Sick” (think early Cure hooking up with New Order and Berlin) finishes the plunge. 

“Alita” churns along like Breakfast In America era Supertramp, followed by the fantastic “Jumping on Angels”, a caffeinated Madness influenced dancer.  “Jailbird” is a grimy eff-you, chock full of distortion and snarl. It’s the highlight of the album, hands down.  Unfortunately, the album’s finale is the weakest link, the anaemic “Not Even In Your Dreams”.  It’s a song with potential but the production doesn’t fit the vibe of the rest of the album. 

At first, I was underwhelmed with Dreamless. 2016 has been the year of guitars becoming synths and synths becoming guitars, and Dreamless jumps on that bandwagon.  But as I took the album for a few more spins, it really grew on me.  Welchez and Rowell take us to the brooding edge of something darker. Its kind of exciting, but only in short doses.

Hopefully the turmoil which led to Dreamless is temporary, because the world could use an album full of good scuzzy guitar laden pop songs right about now, the kind that Crocodiles can write in spades.

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