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With the whole "nu gaze" phenomenon having seemingly quietened down and headed back underground, it seems somewhat ironic that San Diego's Crocodiles are arguably that scene's leading lights as we speak. Certainly from a commercial sense at any rate, with daytime radio and primetime MTV both vying for most plays in one day of current single 'Sleep Forever', namechecks aplenty from several contemporaries and esteemed producers queuing up to work with them, it seems no one has told Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowell the scene that spawned them is allegedly on the decline.
Having first grabbed our attention spans with last year's raw and raucous debut Summer Of Hate, they've come back even stronger this month with the hazy afterglow of Sleep Forever, combining its predecessor's dizzy rush with a more expansive sound that effortlessly transgresses the cosy confines of shoegaze. It's also worth mentioning that Welchez and Rowell now come fully prepared with a full band in tow, sacrificing the drum machine for one-time We Ragazzi drummer Alianna Kalaba while bassist Marco Gonzalez and keyboard player Robin Eisenberg (formerly of Echo Revolution) completing the new look line-up.
What this means is that the primitive Mary Chain-esque abrasiveness of twelve months ago is replaced by a denser, drone-orientated groove which permeates the show from start to finish. Sure there's the argument that it's fairly one dimensional, but the hypnotic magnetism pulsating around the room from the moment the aforementioned 'Sleep Forever' opens the show is impressively dynamic, and exceptionally loud to boot. At times not that dissimilar to New York's Crystal Stilts courtesy of Eisenberg's mini-Manzareks, the 2010 model of Crocodiles owes more to the looped dementia of Suicide or embryonic experimentalism of Spacemen 3 than anything conjured up post A Place To Bury Strangers.
Then of course there's singer Welchez himself, looking for all the world like he's just walked off the set of a modern day remake of 'Happy Days' with his slick back-combed hair and leather attire. Each song's beginning and end is punctuated by a curt yelp rather than any attempt at inane banter, and although such a lack of introductions can be frustrating, particularly at the outset of a new song, it's also strangely compelling as each drone textured interlude heralds no clues as to what will happen next.
As expected, the majority of tonight's set is taken from the new album, an extended 'Mirrors' and haunting 'Girl In Black' both highlights while the one significant oldie 'I Wanna Kill' brings the evening to a suitably chaotic end, tools downed in anger as the stage lights flicker and soundman raises his arms in a nonplussed manner. Afterwards when asked why his band only played for forty minutes with no encore, Brandon Welchez simply replies "We don't know any more songs" in deadpan fashion, no doubt proud of the fact that his once-brutal noise onslaught now comes with an added dose of melodic efficiency.
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