CROCODILES @ THE ECHO
Wow! I finally got to see Crocodiles. The band’s relentless touring and blogogenic personality paid off. They drew a solid turnout (even Don Bolles was there!) and took the stage like tour-torn veterans. Crocodiles played with the aloofness of a worn leather-jacket, the greasy-haired bravado of embryonic alternative rock, a guitarist with a chic straw hat, but with disappointing self-awareness.
Core members Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowell (of Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower-(underground) acclaim) have done what every musician’s done in the last decade—dug up old vinyl and rearranged the pieces laid down by decades of proto to formulate “new sounds” i.e. Maria Popova, brain pickings, combinatorial creativity, blah blah…
I constantly hear how much this band is supposed to sound like The Jesus and Mary Chain. However, after four records, they’ve brought in tons of influence. This made for a reptilian set—skirting from proto-punk Stooges (complete with rock and roll’s more rooted I-IV progression), drawing obvious garage influence—guitar drenched with clangorous reverb, some krautrock—Can-worthy bass lines (side note: I checked to see if any strings were removed; no such luck). But Welchez snarls, where the Reid brothers croon. The heroine-glaze harmonies of J&MC were few and far between. Given their name and feigned attitude of confrontation, I think Crocodiles should be likened more to Echo and the Bunnymen. Then again, some songs do sound dangerously derivative of Jesus and Mary Chain. (At this point, I’m humming the melody of their opener and I keep reverting to “Head On.”)
Everything about their set made me go, Wait, I’ve heard that before. The only unifying element was the bombastic personality of lead guitarist Charles Rowell. He showboated the whole way through, elbow-fist pumping between strummed chords, giving big Boss-like fists to the sky, swaying his hips, doing tons of whammy bar guitar drops (where you hold the guitar up by the whammy bar for dramatic vibrato). I kept thinking of Saved By The Bell’s A.C. Slater and Zach Morris in the legendary wheelchair basketball game, winning, and standing up from the chairs in excitement, before being reprimanded. Rowell epitomized a band trying to feel their own music.
I didn’t feel much watching them.
Who knows, maybe Crocodiles unwillingness to settle on a sound is a super smart indie band move. By having songs that each sound like a reputable, older and more expensive to license band, they can market themselves as the affordable knock off. I’m not sure this is intentional. But given their success, something’s working. And any band that can put out four albums in four years and tour nonstop deserves accolades—even it’s just “good job on doing whatever it is you are doing.”
Overall, the Crocodiles were self-conscious. Because of the myriad influences and their startling incorporation (one song sounded exactly like the Stooges, another opened up like Neu!), the set lacked fluidity. Theirs is rock music that wants to keep the energy high and steady. And they were steady, cruising through a relatively short set. Cheers to Robert Moutrey, a young touring drummer (this was his first one!). He played exceptionally well. His drums were mic’d loud, giving the room that extra big kick boom. No hiccups in his playing. Important, given their energetic finale’s Neu!-influence.
Crocodiles knows “Mirrors” is their best song. Probably why they finished their set with it. This single takes “Fur Immur,” overdubs shoegaze rhythm guitar, and a pretty bow of a I-V-IV verse/ descending pre-chorus that culminates in a perfectly sing-songy chorus. This chorus held ironic sway for me, though. The song is about a sacrificial Jesus, dying on the cross, psyched to get away from everyone because, as the chorus proclaims, they are all scum. And that’s what I saw—a hard-working, Messiah-complex band, totally self-aware and ready for a Green Room heaven. Crocodiles skipped an encore even with 80 fans waiting around the stage. The bass fed-back for a couple minutes. Then Rowell came back on, alone, still sporting that silly straw hat. He flipped the amp off and that was that.
Maybe they expected more from the L.A. crowd. Although given our reputation for indifference, Crocodiles must have figured us for scum.