Crocodiles Endless Flowers (Frenchkiss)
In a way, I feel sorry for Crocodiles. With their hip leather jackets and noisy jangle-pop riffs, the band constantly gets compared to acts like The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and Spiritualized. And while those are apt comparisons, they hang on the band like a yoke, dragging them down into the indie-rock muck.
Of course, every band is entitled to a few obvious influences. As the guys in The Jesus and Mary Chain readily acknowledge, creative borrowing / theft is par for the course in rock music. But here’s what bothers me: The Jesus and Mary Chain will be playing in San Diego this week, and Spiritualized have a new album out, Sweet Heart Sweet Light. So, why settle for less when you can just as easily get the real thing?
It’s heartening, then, that Crocodiles mature significantly on their new album Endless Flowers. Recording for the first time as a proper five-piece, they sound bigger and more polished on this third full-length, using tighter hooks and sharper lyrics to strike a balance between the sunny cheer of ’60s pop and the seedy darkness of ’90s rock.
Even without the crude drum-machine beats and simple synth lines of their 2009 debut, Summer of Hate, Crocodiles sound like Crocodiles. They’re as wry and volatile as ever, but they temper all their U.K.-rock sensibilities with a Southern California vibe: With the rollicking anthem “My Surfing Lucifer” (which could be a nod to Encinitas’ notorious “Surfing Madonna”), you can really feel how our city is home to wisecracking hipsters and beach-loving bros.
Alas, Crocodiles’ influences are still glaring. Just listen to the My Bloody Valentine-style guitar bends of “Sunday (Psychic Conversation #9)” and singer Brandon Welchez’s Morrissey-like lilt in “Electric Death Song.” After repeated listens, I still can’t get completely immersed in the album because I keep getting distracted by random, probably unintentional signifiers. On the title track, for example, I keep marveling at how Welchez’s moping croon reminds me of Smoking Popes frontman Josh Caterer.
But let’s give Crocodiles a break. Endless Flowers might not come close to the best of their biggest influences, but it’s still a good listen. Indeed, sometimes it’s the Marshmallow Mateys and not the Lucky Charms that make us happy.
Crocodiles play at House of Blues on Wednesday, June 13.