Playing on Prefix is a feature on KCRW’s Music Blog where writers from the eclectic music site Prefix hip you to what’s coming out of their computer speakers this week.
Charles Rowell and Brandon Welchez, previously of The Plot to Blow Up The Eiffel Tower, made their mark on the Internet hype machine as Crocodiles in 2008 when their first single, “Neon Jesus,” was championed by indie darlings No Age. Rowell and Welchez capitalized on the attention with their well-received debut full-length, Summer of Hate, released in April 2009. The appeal of that album, as well as of Crocodiles itself, was its simplicity: The songs were direct, driving, and dripping with cool.
The problem, though, is that in the notoriously fickle world of the Internet, the definition of cool changes faster than bands are able to release music. Very quickly, you’re rinsed clean of any seeming novelty, and if the songs aren’t there, all the leather jackets and sunglasses and No Age interviews in the world cannot save you. This is the daunting world the members of Crocodiles entered upon announcing their next album, and they appeared to be as likely a candidate for the sophomore slump as any of their peers.
Crocodiles recruited James Ford, one half of Simian Mobile Disco and producer to the Arctic Monkeys, the Klaxons, and Peaches, to produce their follow-up, Sleep Forever, released earlier this month on Fat Possum. Enlisting Ford could be considered a risky decision, given that the lo-fi aesthetic of Summer of Hate was a defining element of the band’s sound and lo-fi is not something Ford does. But the title track and lead-off single assuaged most people’s fears.
It’s a big, soaring, infectious rock song, with the vocal melody front and center in the mix. Ford’s presence is undeniable, and the song holds up even without all the grit and grime of their previous release.
This applies to the majority of Sleep Forever, as well. It may not be groundbreaking music, but that the songs sound this good after such a drastic change in context only proves their quality. With Sleep Forever, Crocodiles have shown they’ve got the chops to back up the hype.