Review Summary: Summer anthems for those who like their beach days mixed in with a good dose of torrential summer downpours.
Crocodiles have always seemed a band more intent on paying homage to the past than crafting anything lasting for the present. Their previous efforts, 2009’s Summer of Hate
and 2010’s Sleep Forever
, name-checked all the influences that you would expect a noise-pop band named after an Echo & The Bunnymen album to worship: there are your Jesus and Mary Chain melodies, covered in layers of fuzz, the free-floating psychedelia of Spacemen 3, and a heavy dose of My Bloody Valentine’s thick, druggy production. Endless Flowers
doesn’t necessarily go away from these touchstones, yet one look at the title is all you need to know how things have shifted for Crocodiles. No longer are they the brooding, black-clothed purveyors of pop-scented sonic sludge, morosely indulging in multi-tracked layer upon multi-tracked layer of buzzing guitar. First single “Sunday (Psychic Conversation #9)” bursts out of the gate with a lurching melody that screams out summer anthem more than anything this band has ever laid down on record, all sunscreen and surfboards and blinding glare stretching out endlessly. It propels itself relentlessly forward, an unconscious amount of level-stretching noise nearly obliterating the vocals. It’s damn fun, the way everything sounds after a wave has turned you up and violently down, washing everything out with a thud. “If you were a daisy, thirsting for a fix / I’d gladly be the dew,” Brandon Welchez sings to his wife Dee Dee Penny (of similarly-minded noise pop group Dum Dum Girls) on “No Black Clouds for Dee Dee.” “No more dead birds raining on you / no more black clouds hanging around,” a fitting summation of the direction Crocodiles have confidently gone for with Endless Flowers
After two albums of tinkering their sound, playing around with their influences and showing a fine grasp of where to set the storm of guitars and keys so they just barely fail to overwhelm Welchez’s laissez-faire vocals, Endless Flowers
is the sound of a band in full control of their faculties and more confident than ever in their songwriting. The opening combo of the title track and “Sunday (Psychic Conversation #9) is the purest distillation of their noise-pop/shoegaze ethos, pruned down to a respectable length and wasting not a note in lengthy buildups or outros. The melodies here are muscular, never overshadowed by the constant crackle and hum of the instruments but enhanced by it, built up on layers upon layers of reverb. The Jesus and Mary Chain is still the predominant musical precedent, but the band’s pop finesse land them more along sunnier contemporaries, a scummier, messier Best Coast on the enchanting “Bubblegum Trash” or a noisier Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on the go-to-hell riffage of “My Surfing Lucifer.”
Over the course of a full-length, Crocodiles’ pitiless sonic assault wears, with tracks bleeding into one another; “Electric Death Song” is a passing trifle after the superb trio that opens this album, while “You Are Forgiven” seems almost an afterthought. The group’s one attempt to change things up, the dreary, hazy “Hung Up On A Flower,” takes away the band’s strong melodies in an effort to add tension and atmosphere to a song that ends up more a soupy haze of a bad trip than any real, coherent sentiment. For a band that seemed to have struggled with finding out what they were, however, these missteps are almost necessary. They make the triumphs, like that soaring, nebulous beginning to “Bubblegum Trash” and the massive hook to “Welcome Trouble,” all the more rewarding, fine examples of what finding your own path can do for a band. That omnipresent wall of sound, washed out keyboards and thumping drums and oh, that glorious roar of a guitar and the tendrils of feedback; they all sound so much better when matched up with the best overall songwriting of the band’s career. Endless Flowers
is an album of summer anthems for those who like their beach days mixed in with a good dose of torrential summer downpours.