There’s been a lot of buzz about the stylish San Diego-based noise pop outfit Crocodiles, who played to a sold out crowd at the Larimer Lounge on Saturday night. But based upon what I’ve seen and heard so far from this young band, I’d have to say: don’t believe the hype – yet.
Before Crocodiles took the stage, one of Denver’s best and brightest, Overcasters, amped up the crowd by doing what they do best. Through the use of space and dynamics, style and restraint, both visually and sonically, lead vocalist/guitarist Kurt Ottoway and company give an audience what they want from a live show. The band excels via a foundation of heavily-strummed chords and cutting leads from guitarist John Nichols. Erin Tidwell’s relentlessly pummeled drums and Samantha Doom’s thick bass lines as Ottoway’s vocal chants find their rightful place among the grooves.
Overcasters’ thoughtful mix of musical influences, combined with an impressive lightshow, makes for provocative post-millennium psychedelia.
And this is what Crocodiles have yet to learn. Beginning as a duo in 2008 and quickly becoming an Internet sensation, the young band clearly, almost blatantly, wear their influences on their sleeves. Namely one influence: The Jesus & Mary Chain (JAMC). It’s impossible to experience much of what this band does and not immediately recall JAMC’s classic sound — from the wall-of-sound guitar tones, vocal inflections, simple drum and tambourine-based rhythms and 1960s-styled pop hooks.
That’s not to say Crocodiles, playing this evening as a five-piece band, didn’t give the crowd a good time during their very brief 45-minute set. Much of the audience, bobbing their heads along or dancing to the four-on-the-floor beats, were clearly enjoying themselves. But until they feel comfortable dressing up in their own skin, rather than hiding in someone else’s, Crocodiles are not going to create anything that has any real teeth or long-lasting appeal.
Exemplified by the opening number “Soft Skull (In My Room)” and the crowd favorite (and dead ringer for JAMC’s “Head On”) “I Wanna Kill,” the set concentrated on the band’s uptempo numbers. Throughout the show, energetic front man Brandon Welchez, sporting sunglasses at night, gripped the microphone stand for dear life and thrashed about the stage as during the pounding title track from the band’s debut, “Summer of Hate.” But it was guitarist Charles Rowell who was most impressive to watch — attacking his six strings — oblivious to everything and everyone around him, except for the songs at hand.
It was promising to note that when performing newer tracks, such as the expansive “Mirrors” propelled by a motorik rhythm and the organ-based psych/freakout “Stoned To Death,” (both from last year’s “Sleep Forever”) the band is tentatively stepping out to successfully explore new sounds.
Let’s hope that they continue to move in this direction; there’s a lot of energy and some potential there, but if they don’t learn from the history they’ve clearly studied, they’re just doomed to repeat it.
Joe McCabe is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb. Check out his website.