Crocodiles @ Barfly
aaamusic | On 23, Feb 2011
London, 21st February
Crocodiles are cool…
Crocodiles’ short set at the Camden Barfly – February 21 – was loud. So loud that this embarrassed reviewer had to pop in his Ipod earphones to try and soften the raging reverberations from the venue’s sound system. That, my friends, meant it was too loud.
Imminent tinnitus aside, this intimate show – promoted and recorded by Xfm radio – was highly memorable. Well, at least the headliners were. The same cannot be said for the main support act Cloud Nothings, whose brand of jangly pop-punk was upbeat and energetic but exceptionally bland and generic.
The San Diegan duo of singer Brandon Welchez and guitarist Charles Rowell formed Crocodiles in 2008, after the demise of their old post-hardcore band – cool, cult heroes The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower. After some support and praise from fellow Californian noise-poppers No Age (one of the coolest, most celebrated US underground bands), Crocodiles were signed to Fat Possum Records, who released their self-recorded debut – entitled ‘Summer Of Hate’ – in 2009.
Then came their breakthrough album ‘Sleep Forever’, released towards the end of 2010 through Fat Possum, and produced by the eminently cool James Ford. One half of Simian Mobile Disco and principle producer for Arctic Monkeys (all three albums) and Klaxons (the first album, the one that was actually good), Ford can be seen as pioneering all the recent indie trends – commercial electro, the indie rock revival, and nu-rave. His participation with ‘Sleep Forever’ not only produced a record close to perfection but also cemented the band’s coolness.
As Crocodiles take to the stage – completed by their touring band – Welchez (an extremely good looking chap in an extremely tight jacket) barks down his mike “can we turn these f***ing lights way down”, and thus engendering the mood for the evening. That mood is one of brooding intensity – the dim lighting and subsequent shifty shadows creating a perfect atmosphere for their textured, indie-pop soundscape. The band power through just seven tracks, and although the show is painfully short, those seven tracks are performed with such passion and precision (and volume) that there are no ill feelings when the set finishes prematurely.
Crocodiles’ music is essentially noise pop with a few hints of other (cool) genres creeping through. Take their opener ‘Sleep Forever’ – melodic pop vocals shine through the rumbling groove of the rhythm instruments with all the shoegazing magnetism of The Jesus and Mary Chain. Frontman Welchez radiates new wave charm on the art-punk of ‘Neon Jesus’ – aided by added echo effects on his vocals, a trick they use throughout their set to inject some extra eeriness. After inserting some high-pitched howls into ‘Hearts of Love’ (with the same sexy swagger of Mick Jagger) Welchez dons a guitar for the psychedelic haze of ‘Summer of Hate’. Crocodiles then belt out ‘Mirrors’, the best song in their arsenal – one of dark pop and a dreamy ‘wall of noise’ reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine.
Before finishing off their set with the dynamic garage-rock of ‘I Wanna Kill’, Crocodiles play a cover – the coolest cover I have ever witnessed. Not only is ‘I’m Not A Young Man Anymore’ originally by The Velvet Underground – possibly the coolest band to ever exist – but it’s one of that band’s unrecorded, ‘lost’ songs. Dedicating it to John Kennedy of XFM, Welchez declares “radio can be so s*** and it’s so good you have someone willing to play real, good music, not just Lady Gaga and Rihanna”, before reluctantly adding “although Rihanna is pretty good”.
After Crocodiles glance thankfully at the crowd (with genuine humility), they slip off the Barfly stage to looping, distorted feedback so deafening that there’s a worry that the band members were unable to hear the only-slightly-less-deafening crowd cheers. Welchez only turns back to quickly gesture a two-fingered peace sign, mumbling “Free Libya” with cool, rock-star charisma, rather than cheesy, celebrity condescendence. Very cool indeed.
SETLIST: Crocodiles @ Camden Barfly – 21/02/11
1. Sleep Forever
2. Neon Jesus
3. Hearts of Love
4. Summer of Hate
6. I’m Not A Young Man Anymore (cover)
7. I Wanna Kill
Author: Clive Rozario