With remarkable swiftness, Crocodiles tick off all the key characteristics of a band in the thriving lo-fi indie/punk/garage scene. They have a shaky old-school sound designed by limited ranks (the duo of Charles Rowell and Brandon Welchez). They’re rooted in California. They inject a dose of nostalgia into their despondency. And, with Sleep Forever, they use a cover image that evokes an aged photo.
None of this makes Crocodiles a lo-fi caricature — on the contrary, their debut LP epitomizes what the subgenre can accomplish. Aside from being shoegaze-pop practitioners, Crocs are a pair of shamans who exist in this reality but keep thinking of hopping to another plane. And they’ve strewn deathly detritus all through Sleep Forever. It begins with the cover photo and title. Then, someone gets “Stoned to Death,” a ghoulish organ wafts out of “Hollow Hollow Eyes,” and “Mirrors” opens with a brilliantly grim turn of phrase: “Something in the way you crucify me/It makes me smile.”
Crocodiles detail this morbidity with enviable precision, inviting reverb-cloaked vocals, moody synth, and carefully allocated amounts of feedback to the funeral. Strip away the ragged production, if you must, and the skeleton will still boast the glow of sharp songwriting. Sleep Forever is about accepting mortality, and if its skill represents the possibilities of their earthly journey, long live Crocodiles.