Being a garage rock band today is like being a boy band in 1998: the market is over-saturated and the difference between any band is usually as negligible as a Kangol cap or a well-trimmed goatee. But Los Angeles’ Criminal Hygiene have found a way to stand out amongst the crowd, balancing the evocative with the asinine on their mostly-self-titled debut, CRMNL HYGNE.
Eschewing the traditional blues and psych-rock influences, the trio call on two primary muses throughout the 17 breezy tunes. “Rearrange Me” is their ode to late career Nirvana, recreating that same shambolic groove within the punchier confines of garage-rock, all while maintaining visceral emotions and haggard pleas for connection. But just moments later, they let loose “Alan, I’m In Love” and “Fine!”, whose grimy production, hyper-activity, and emotionally-stunted content sound like the makings of a Hootenanny tribute album.
Still, those cuts only spark the interest; the band’s true worth shines in numbers where they do more than tinker with aural artifacts. Lead single “Blak Water” is an intriguing beast, an empty bubble of “oh ah” harmonies and lackadaisical intent filled with the grimy sludge of directionless teen vitriol and slow-burning dissonance. But where that’s all devastation, “Immortal Eighteens” displays a veil of hope somewhere between the pessimism of Nirvana and the abandonment of the ‘Mats, a place where they can’t decide if teen-dom’s inherent sense of invulnerability is a blessing or a curse. The only thing for certain, though, is that the jagged guitar makes every moment spent musing especially tense.
Criminal Hygiene aren’t worried about the state of a scene. Instead, they’ve stuck to what they can control, crafting a rocking LP that pays homage while blazing its own trail upward and onward. More than anything, that’s what’ll keep the genre fresher than an ‘N Sync dance routine.
Essential Tracks: “Rearrange Me”, “Immortal Eighteens”