Chord Chord Dischord
Since they first emerged to bask in the sun of the Great Bay, Crocodiles have reliably doled out satisfying clusters feedback-filled indie rock in the style of The Jesus and Mary Chain before disappearing back into the murky depths. With its tightly written (if a bit structurally uniform) jams dealing with existential frustration and feeling smarter than everyone, the group’s 2009 debut Summer of Hate hit a then-unexploited post-punk sweet spot in contemporary alt-rock. A bit hazier and more relaxed than say, their rigidly aggressive contemporaries, A Place To Bury Strangers.
Crocodiles must have dropped some good sunshine acid in the meantime, because “Crybaby Demon,” the first track from Boys, sounds like the Beatles. Psychedelic surf rock surrounding a hippie chick that “gets so high” as to lose sight of the lead singer. Kind of trite, but the ever-present, swirling storm of guitar noise maintains a more frantic and ear-catching atmosphere than most current bands whose careers are built on aping the fab four’s late 60’s sound.
The core of Crocodiles’ music is mostly unaltered, but their attitude certainly is. Their lyrical crosshairs seem to have shifted from the looming ever-oppressive of The Man to a smaller, more elusive target – members of their own countercultural niche. The disco bassline of “Foolin’ Around” is a welcome curveball, even if the thing is like, one note away from being the intro to “Billie Jean.” The staccato stride finds itself caught in the mire of the grainy garage rock riffs before things manage to get too funky.
But more importantly: is that a bit of old man fist shaking, or just really deadpan satire? That’s a serious inquiry. Brandon Welchez insists “Everybody’s just foolin’ around/In them clubs/On them drugs,” before imploring the masses to “Let me know where you are if you need some good advice.” Most perplexing is the sneering impersonation of some strawman hippie’s ineffectual protest of “Hey, man!” Before we can parse out Crocodiles’ true position on the matter, the gang has moved on to the wordless coda and left our ponderances in the dust.
Judging from its title and bouncy, upbeat rhythm, “Do The Void” is supposed to be a homage to/parody of surf-rock era dance crazes. The chords have a certain Sonic Youth-like density to them, and the bass tone a distinctive bit of post-punk bite. By the time “The Boy is a Tramp” rolls around Boys has started to sound like a sampler of various late 60’s pop music styles. “The Boy” sways with a cadence that would fit an early Motown single, except that the Rhodes piano that might fill out a Gladys Knight song has been swapped out for 80’s synths and obscured by a fog of treble-soaked guitar chords. Whether the forlorn lover’s ballad’s titular boy is a third party or the singer himself remains indiscernible.
Now that you mention it, Boys are the bulk of this record’s subject mat-OH I GET IT.
The two-chord riff of “Blue” sounds like a sloppily played version of “Private Number,” that soul guitar lick famously sampled by Pretty Lights and countless others, and that was definitely supposed to be praise. “Kool TV” features a hot-steppin’ samba beat played on loud, distorted guitars instead of a horn ensemble, complete with conga drums and a noise-rock lead
And before you know it, Boys glides into a sudden stop. Crocodiles have never been all that structurally ambitious, but why is the fact that their songs are only ever two chords long all of a sudden so depressingly, gratingly apparent? With the dissipation of the storm of industrial noise that encircled their first two LPs, it seems that the mystique of their music evaporated as well. When their brand of indie rock sounds this pretty and clear and well-lit, it’s like we can see the rabbit already in the hat, the man behind the curtain. Still though, better to take a chance on a stylistically nuanced album like Boys rather than languish as an indie period piece.