Crocodiles - Sleep Forever (2010)

 When Crocodiles released their debut, 'Summer of Hate', in 2009, they were part of a new crop of Southern California bands, along with Wavves and The Soft Pack, who delivered a lo-fi take on seedy, thrilling garage rock. Singer Brandon Welchez cultivated a persona of the nihilistic rock star, sporting a late-'60s Dylan-style 'fro and hocking loogies  on stage while performing tunes like the goth-punk anthem "I Wanna Kill." One year later, Crocodiles' tough-as-leather image has softened a bit — but their music is no less thrilling as a result. On 'Sleep Forever', Welchez and partner Charles Rowell ratchet up the hook quotient significantly for an album long on fist-pumping anthems.

Crocodiles tapped Arctic Monkeys producer and Simian Mobile Disco member James Ford to helm the sessions, cut in a Joshua Tree, California, studio stacked with pricey vintage equipment. Their increased ambitions shine through on some of their most focused and ambitious music yet. "Girl In Black" is a gorgeous reverb-dunked drone and the righteous "Sleep Forever," which mixes an almost funky guitar hook with a giant, booming beat, sounds like a long-lost girl-group-pop gem. The band hasn't totally abandoned their jones for lo-fi noise-punk — "Hollow Hollow Eyes" pairs squealing guitar hooks and feedback with far-out Farfisa stabs — but Crocodiles' adventures into new sonic terrain (the album opening epic "Mirrors") prove them the finest krautrock band to ever come out of the Golden State.

It’s hard to peg a genre on 'Sleep Forever'; the whole record feels dipped in an experimental, psychedelic sound reminiscent of Jason Pierce’s early work, but still maintains the fuzzed out elements that keep it grounded. “Stoned to Death” jumps out with a hip-swinging distorted riff that chugs along repeatedly, building momentum without changing pace, and is soon joined by a less than glossy, more than welcome organ. It’s like the Doors got together with Sonic Youth only with Welchez’s vocals, which are in that immediate yet distant, heavy on the echo/reverb mold, and which occasionally burst with his trademark trailing yelp. The middle of the song whirs into a captivating organized chaos that’s very 'Ladies and Gentleman, We Are Floating In Space'.

"Hearts of Love" is the most uncharacteristic track on the album in its outright catchiness, and yet it just might be my favorite. While the rest of the record has a spacey haze and grit to it, "Hearts of Love" is more glossy sheen. With surf-rock guitar and poppy xylophone chimes, the track builds slowly before exploding with a chorus that’s that closest thing to an all out sing-along anthem since the aforementioned "I Wanna Kill".

From the album’s title and cover art to mentions of choking, overdosing, crucifixion, poisoned apples, drowning etc., death is a common point of reference across the record. At times it’s seen as an escape ("Mirrors"), on other tracks, simply casual ruminations on what happens when we meet the end ("Billy Speed", "Hearts of Love"). It’s hard to tell if it’s all tongue in cheek since it never comes off as foreboding, but if you’re looking for a rock record that touches on mortality on nearly every track, 'Sleep Forever' fits the bill and defies any sophomore slump suspicions along the way

Sleep Forever
Album art: 
Release date: 

1. Mirrors
2. Stoned to Death
3. Hollow Hollow Eyes
4. Girl in Black
5. Sleep Forever
6. Billy Speed
7. Hearts of Love
8. All My Hate and My Hexes Are for You

Music label: 
Fat Possum
United States
Average: 4.6 (20 votes)
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