Did the San Diego noise-pop outfit Crocodiles really get their name from the first Echo and the Bunnymen LP? Or did Echo and the Bunnymen name their first record after their favorite band from the future? Spend an afternoon absorbing the Crocs' nostalgia-drenched back catalog, and you may ask similar questions.
Since crawling out of the post-post-post-punk muck back in 2008, Crocodiles' core members Brandon Welchez (vocals, guitar) and Charles Rowell (guitar) have remained somewhat hopelessly shackled to the totem pole of retro — more, perhaps, than even their like-minded contemporaries in Dum Dum Girls, Wavves and No Age. This far into the 21st century, nobody can really say for sure whether the Crocs were initially paying legitimate homage to '80s titans like Echo and The Jesus and Mary Chain or just aping along, the way The Raveonettes did 10 years ago. Whatever their motivations — admiration, appropriation or outright thievery — this is just one of those bands that can't seem to be discussed outside the context of its own self-aware similarity to other bands.
And so we are left with a conundrum: How do we put Crocodiles and their thoroughly enjoyable new album in perspective without just walking down all those well-trod comparison paths of the past? This is a particularly sticky wicket, in that it's arguably the derivative nature of August's Crimes of Passion — a record produced by none other than Sune Rose Wagner of the aforementioned Raveonettes — that might be the biggest part of its appeal.
Basically, if you're someone who owns Primal Scream's 1989 self-titled album or Ride's Going Blank Again (1992) — and you have relatively fond memories of being alive during the first Bush administration — then describing Crocodiles' latest effort in an influence-free vacuum would only be doing them a disservice. This is a band that nostalgia-baits with the best of them. And in a world where Sherlock Holmes now lives in New York and Superman is played by an Englishman, who's to say the next great '90s British shoegaze band can't exist right now in Southern California?
Who knows, maybe there's even a loophole in the system that would allow us to talk about Crocodiles with a brand-new frame of reference. To paraphrase Sherlock himself, when all other obvious musical comparisons have already been made, whatever remains — no matter how seemingly arbitrary or silly — must be worthwhile. And thus, as we bask in the boom-chick-boom rhythms and fuzzy drones of Crimes of Passion, we are free to ask, "How much were Crocodiles influenced by other bands with reptile-themed names?"
I mean, when you really think about it, the psychedelic pop of tracks like "I Like It in the Dark" harks back as much to The Turtles as The Stone Roses. And "Me and My Machine Gun" is really a dead ringer for '80s dream-pop pioneers The Chameleons. "Cockroach" has a little bit of Detroit Cobras swagger to it. Hell, there's even a song called "Heavy Metal Clouds," which could be an oblique reference to Whitesnake, perhaps.
Oh well. It was worth a shot.
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