Garage rock is a crowded field, and the arms race continues to escalate. With each new album from the likes of Mikal Cronin and Thee Oh Sees — tip-top tier acts in the genre with new albums this year — the bands nipping at their heels have to find some new avenue to distinguish themselves. For Crocodiles, that meant traveling to Mexico City and trying to pick up some local flavor. Their shot at “salsa-punk” on new album Boys, though, misses the mark when it comes to differentiating them from the garage boilerplate.
Largely, the polyrhythmic percussion flourishes that the outfit attempt to build into their songs carry a shoegaze tone rather than a Latin one. “Kool TV” builds a groove on the back of aux percussion, but when the vocals kick in, they operate on a syrupy wavelength seemingly detached from the up rhythm. After copping a “Billy Jean” bass tone, “Foolin’ Around” dips into goofy synth squiggles, draping a downtempo cool pose in dance floor effluvia.
That said, they do have moments where they figure the formula out. Early taste “Crybaby Demon” sashays through tinny distortion like a ’90s radio rock cut stretched to a glittery gutter-pool. “Blue” apes ’60s pop if it were lost in a desert and succumbing slowly to the sun. “Transylvania” accentuates a feedback freakout with a saxophone, an unexpected ribbon fluttering at the frayed edges. “The Boy is a Tramp” features a heartbroken acoustic strum at its bridge, but that highlight falls away when the vocals and main progression fit back into oily place.
The announcement of the album played up the influence that the Mexican recording had on the band’s sound. But without that note, the change wouldn’t be all that notable. Following through on an album narrative isn’t necessarily important, but when that narrative is the main thing that makes an album interesting, it’d be best if it were more visible.
Essential Tracks: “Crybaby Demon”, “Blue”