[Fat Possum; 2010]

The lo-fi art-punking Crocodiles are perhaps one of the most notable bands coming from an oddly flourishing San Diego music scene. They join a group of recently successful local bands of the same brethren like Wavves and The Soft Pack (previously The Muslims) who follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, pave-the-way SD punk acts like The Night Marchers and Hot Snakes. If you missed their first record here is a quick synopsis: The Crocs are mainly two leather-clad dudes layered in synths and noisy guitars with cool shades and avant-garde swagger. Their brand is a reverb-heavy psychedelic sound reminiscent of The Velvet Underground and The Jesus and Mary Chain. It’s almost a rip off, but hard not to like. Their new LP Sleep Forever is an evolution of the bands sound debuted on their buzzed-about record Summer of Hate; just with a few changes.

From the start you immediately sense this is a more polished edition. Its overall sound is still identifiable as lo-fi but it’s a bit cleaner and has a tighter sound. This characteristic can probably be credited to James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco. Ford manned the production reigns and brought a wealth of experience having previously crafted great records with Klaxons and Arctic Monkeys. The other notable difference here is the song writing has a more layered and complex feel while maintaining a consistent style of song work throughout. The morbid sounding lyrics and industrial vibe of the songs lack the straight ahead catchy hooks of earlier tracks like “I Wanna Kill” yet still have a pop sensibility that makes them grow on you; they just take longer to set in.

Opener “Mirrors” is perhaps the best of the bunch and really sums up where the Crocs have been with their sound and where they should continue to go. Ambient synth textures slowly build into big drums, fuzzy bass, and loud guitars blending into a big and surreal rock song that feels like a hazy pop dream. The song really captures the group’s unique ability to craft song work that is dark yet somehow retains an overall positive and uplifting vibe. Droning organs kick in on the next thumper as a voice drowned in reverb chants the chorus “I’m Stoned to Death Again”. The track features an onslaught of loud blistering noise and the record really has you going after two solid tracks; however, the ship takes a turn and hits a sort of bohemian iceberg with “Hollow Hollow Eyes” and slowly starts to sink at this point. Just when you start to fall for the Crocs and their cool swagger it all starts to lose its edge and the rest of the tracks, although worthy, don’t really deliver the knockout punch you would expect after the openers.

Killer lyrics and a few standout songs make this LP one of the better releases of this genre in quite some time. What the record really lacks is more tracks like “Mirrors.” Unfortunately, the opening tracks just leave you wanting more. If the Crocs can build on this momentum and continue to break ground while adding a few more banger tracks they will realize the potential they have just begun to tap.