Crocodiles' transition from a posthardcore past is complete. The San Diego duo of Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowell still had a bit of the brute force of their old outfits, The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower and Some Girls, bottled up their first record, 2009's Summer of Hate. (Though the static-drenched post-punk jam "I Wanna Kill" is less severe than it sounds.)
Now, the shimmering, glam beauty of last year's Sleep Forever (watch the video for "Sleep Forever") shows these guys can grasp any sort of pop songwriting -- this time it's a fuzzy, dream narrative that'll still sound great overloading the speakers as it causes an uncontainable emotional swell in the chest. Carrying these songs on two sets of shoulders proved to be too much in concert, though. What used to be a stripped-down, squalling two-piece live show has grown to a full band, which includes drummer Alianna Kalaba, bassist Marco Gonzalez, and keyboardist Robin Eisenberg.
Just to get a better grasp of how the guys settled on their multilayered sound and prior to Saturday's performance at Respectable Street, New Times hit up Welchez and Rowell for a playlist of influential melodies -- with no Jesus and Mary Chain necessary here. These ten songs are all devastating, beautiful, and filled with the hypercharged human spirit coloring their own work.
1) X - "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes"
I think Leadbelly wrote this. Either way, it's a standard, there are a ton of versions. X was the first version I heard, though, and the lyrics still get me."Dancing with tears in my eyes because the girl in my arms isn't you."
I think everyone can relate to that.
2) Ivy Green - "I'm Sure We're Gonna Make It"
A Dutch punk band from the late '70s who were way ahead of their time in terms of minimalism with this track. There is so much energy and aggression in this song, which is really just one chord (a second chord makes a brief appearance but only lasts a second).
3) John Cale - "Big White Cloud"
An absolutely beautiful song. Very simple melodically and lyrically and totally perfect.
4) Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - "Deanna"
This is exactly how music should sound to me. Weird, intense, imperfect, lyrical but above all, catchy as fuck.
5) Patti Smith - "Babelogue/Rock And Roll Nigger"
Patti is one of the best and bravest lyricists of all time. She reappropriates a hateful term and turns it around to be a person of any race who understands suffering and strives to transcend the strictures of culture. The lyrics are incredible."Outside of society, they're waiting for me/Outside of society, that's where I wanna be."
In the song, she name-checks Jimi Hendrix, Jackson Pollock, Jesus Christ, and her grandmother as people who attained this special status.
6) SRC - "Black Sheep"
SRC were a great Detroit rock 'n' roll band -- contemporaries of the Stooges and the MC5. Like those bands, they totally got it. I'm surprised they aren't more well-known.
7) Ornette Coleman - "Lonely Woman"
Listen to that saxophone cry! Ornette is one of the true rebels of jazz music. He was constantly ahead of his time.
8) Roxy Music - "Editions of You"
This is one of the bands that taught me that music can be smart and eccentric while never losing its sense of fun. I was baffled in the most positive way when I was first introduced to Roxy Music -- they were so over-the-top, and the songs were just so perfect! It's an obsession that lasts to this day.
9) Arthur Alexander - "Soldier of Love"
Beautiful song, beautiful lyrics.
10) John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band - "I Found Out"
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This is off Lennon's first solo record, one of the rawest and most emotional albums ever committed to tape. On this record, he tries to excorcise all his demons, and he does it very publicly and honestly. He had humongous balls to follow up being in the biggest band of all time with a record as brutal and lyrically revealing as this one.
With the Band in Heaven, the Fevers, and the Dewars. 9 p.m. Saturday, May 21, at Respectable Street, 518 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $10. Call 561-832-9999, or visit respectablestreet.com.