Crocodiles - Dreamless
With what has been a whirlwind of creativity since their formation in 2008, the San Diego duo of Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowell return with their sixth album Dreamless drafting in friend, and previous collaborator, Martin Thulin of Exploded View to assist with recording in Mexico City. A Crocodiles album has always been an enjoyable listen but, and this is no criticism, haven’t really provided a lot variety. Their tried and tested Jesus and The Mary Chain formula of a blissfully fuzzed out surf guitar meets rockabilly but with a drop more of the Californian sunshine to cut through the wall of sound has always proved to be a fun listen. On first listen to Dreamless then, it comes as a big surprise that they’ve chosen to play around with that well worn formula.
The first shock of the album is the guitar, or lack thereof. They’ve been quoted as saying that during the writing and recording process it wasn’t an initial conscious decision until after the first week was in the bag, after which “Charlie’s mantra was ‘fuck guitars’”. While the guitars are still present, they have taken a back seat in the songwriting and recording process as the band started to experiment with synths and keyboards to fill the void. For the most part, it really works and it is pretty refreshing to see the band being able to spread their wings a little bit as it has given them the opportunity to play around with their core sound. Highlights of the album include “Telepathic Lover” with its ominous sample - ‘And you’ll burn and weep and suffer’ - before kicking into the closest approximation of the classic Crocodiles sound but mutated into a surf pop version of New Order, “Alita” which draws on the Mexican recording location and plants you right in the centre of a carnival, the woozy bar-room sounds of “Jumping on Angels”, and the wonderful stripped back, reverb heavy, bass driven “Go Now”.
The more upbeat music and production takes its cues from the New Romantics and synth pop, even taking time to visit the Hacienda via “Welcome To Hell”, but this also bizarrely hides a much darker lyrical content than the band have been known for in the past. After a year of hardships it feels like Crocodiles have turned a corner, rather than being a homage to Jesus and The Mary Chain they have chosen to adapt and experiment. The overall tone of the record is, in fact, more reminiscent of previous Mary Chain alumni Bobby Gillespie and Primal Scream managing to mix the reverb heavy psych rock of “Velocity Girl” with the Vanishing Point/Xtrmntr synth heavy production. While this isn’t a perfect record, if this is the sound of things to come for Crocodiles then it will be worth the wait.