What could a band named after a jagged swamp animal possibly have in store?
Surprisingly enough, the band — a duo of Charles Rowell and Brandon Welchez — has a mellow, melancholic sound, with tracks that include catchy drum beats and stand-out lyrics.
The band’s new album Sleep Forever contains this musical blend, presenting an overall subdued-yet-energetic mood that carries throughout the album, even down to the cover art — an eerie photograph of what looks to be a funeral, the image hazed in a cloud of purple color.
But don’t let the cover scare you away. The album is not a depressing tale of death and sorrow, but instead a creation that tackles emotions with a blend of shoegazer style, artistic lyrics and natural harmonization.
The tempo bounces in speed from track to track. “Mirrors” starts off the album with the soft entrance of a guitar note, followed by a friendly drum beat and the eclectic harmony of the duo. Fast-forward a few tracks, the band then offers “Billy Speed,” which immediately plunges into a cymbal-happy, fuzzy guitar track, with the echo sound used to full effect. Fittingly enough, the track perfectly tunes into the speed of a reckless drive down a deserted street in the middle of the night. But in doing so, it limits itself — the loudness of the track could possibly overpower listeners who feel their fragile ears are being bombarded with too much sound.
The calmer side of Crocodiles forces listeners to take a break from a stressful, hectic day and just sit down and listen. Oftentimes, this characteristic sound can nonetheless be lost in the hustle and bustle of the daily life. This album is no compilation of party tracks or workout tunes but instead the perfect background for a smooth drive an artsy film.
Lead singer Welchez’s voice is one of the band’s driving forces of the band and constantly echoes while he carefully sings. The duo saves its crowning gem for the end, with a repeating line that reverberates in the listener’s mind.
The final track, “All My Hate and My Hexes Are for You,” creates romantic sounds but shatters the profile of most love songs, which create coy tracks for an object of affection. This amorous track throws venomous words at an unknown subject in an alternative love song — a declaration that there is so much love, there is hate. The song rides along bouncily and keeps the refrain simple, looping until it becomes embedded in the listener’s mind, each note hit by the singer giving voice to another emotion in the complicated story.
The lyricism only adds to the song’s appeal. The band crafts lyrics with an unusually dedicated care that is rarely seen, the words striving not merely to rhyme with each other but to create a complex meaning. Welchez sings tenderly, “Your face at night / drills a tick-tock in my brain / digs canals across my face,” and just as sweetly repeats the line “all my hate and my hexes are for you.” Though at times the premise of the song is confusing, including when he utters that “all the eyes of the little girls / will be flames that dance and twirl,” the song manages to create an uncommon imagery and atmosphere.
Sleep Forever has the potential to either expand musical limits or cause widespread confusion, depending on the listener’s taste. Fans of shoegazer definitely need to peruse its contents while those looking for pop hooks are in the wrong place. The guitar chords and the effervescent voice of the lead singer recall the sounds of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, but the lyrics are all their own.
What remains certain is the band’s investment in its complex craft. Its debut album Summer of Hate, released last year, received wide acclaim from numerous publications, including Rolling Stone magazine, for its departure from mainstream music and injection of artsy and punk sounds.
The band will start its tour Sept. 17 in Las Vegas, and surely will attract a variety of listeners yearning for a different sound and an interesting experience. With expert guidance from producer James Ford, who has also worked with bands such as Florence and the Machine and the Arctic Monkeys, the album proves a trademark stamp on the music world, and is definitely worthy of purchase for those seeking an alternative sound.