Crocodiles, ‘Crimes of Passion’ – Album Review
If you ever find yourself having to describe the band Crocodiles, a San Diego-born project from duo Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowell, don’t be ashamed if you struggle. In fact, be suspicious of anyone who does it too easily, or who brings up the Jesus and Mary Chain or Echo and the Bunnymen and simply leaves it at that.
Over the course of four albums, Crocodiles have repeatedly changed their sound, always modifying the foundation but never getting gutsy enough to tear the thing out and completely start fresh. Because there aren’t just termites in this house — there’s, like, an Indian burial ground underneath it or something.
On 2009’s ‘Summer of Hate,’ the Crocs went for a low-fi recreation of post-punk’s most accessible fare, and that was a style they could have stuck with. But from there, they refined that sound and pandered to get an audience, which of course hasn’t worked, since urgency and sincerity are the central precepts of the genre they’re based in.
‘Crimes of Passion’ arrives with just a faint whiff of where Crocodiles have been, and it lends itself to a handful of possible readings. Maybe the band has finally achieved the sound it’s always been going for, and in the past, they simply forgot to reference ’60s girl groups — a key influence on Welchez’s superior songwriter of a wife, Dee Dee of the Dum Dum Girls. Or maybe we can chalk it up to producer Sune Rose Wagner of the Raveonettes, whose aesthetic is very similar to the end result here. Wagner tends to stand with one foot in the past and one foot in the shadows, straddling two sets of cliches.
It’s the second song, ‘Marquis De Sade,’ that raises the first red flag. It’s a bubblegum throwback for two verses that over-corrects itself for a bridge that literally sounds like someone wrecking their car after falling asleep at the wheel. ‘Teardrop Guitar’ revisits a sonic template we’ve heard before from the band, but lyrically, the idea of a “teardrop guitar” making the object of the song cry is patronizing. Not that we expect poetry, but later on, Welchez doesn’t help when he reminds us of what we’re missing, singing, “Gimme some annihilation, some kind of poetic death.”
If you haven’t sought the escape hatch by ‘Virgin,’ the introspective and pouty rocker that ponders being a virgin again, then, well, you should check out the other Crocodiles albums. It’s baffling how Welchez can be married to such a spectacular songwriter and not ask for some help. She would at least let him know that annihilation is not exactly a poetic death.