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Sleep Forever Michael Dix , September 15th, 2010 07:05

Although most successful bands would swear blind that hard work alone got them where they are, not many can honestly claim that they've never been given a leg-up in the form of a well-placed recommendation. When LA punks No Age, riding high on the back of their own Nouns album, picked the Crocodiles track "Neon Jesus" as one of their favourite songs of 2008 for a major website's end-of-year list feature, the band's name spread across the blogosphere like a Megan Fox sex tape. In the space of just a few hours, Randall and Spunt's glowing endorsement of that "super catchy, kinda early 80s electro punk pop jam" hooked the San Diego duo more new fans than months of tireless self-promotion ever could, and within a year they had signed with Fat Possum and released debut album Summer Of Hate, heralded somewhat optimistically by Rolling Stone as the coming of the "art-punk renaissance".

Keeping the momentum going, Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowland have wasted no time turning around their sophomore effort Sleep Forever. Decamping to the desert to make use of the Joshua Tree studio's vintage equipment, the band took along Simian Mobile Disco's James Ford to add another production credit to a list that already includes Klaxons, Arctic Monkeys and Florence & The Machine. It's a decision that could have seriously backfired; swapping Summer Of Hate's wiry guitars and tinny drum machines for a fuller sound courtesy of a "celebrity" (in indie circles anyway) producer could alienate fans of their debut's DIY ethic. If the lo-fi crowd do turn their backs in disgust, though, it'll be their loss. This is a band moving into new territory big enough to accommodate their own rapidly evolving ideas.

Compared to their debut, Sleep Forever sounds huge. The opening rush of 'Mirrors' is as sleek as a bullet train, gliding along on a metronomic beat with a bassline like helicopter blades and guitar and synth riffs swirling amidst walls of feedback. Tracks like 'Stoned To Death' and 'Hollow Hollow Eyes' exhibit the kind of over-driven organ sounds beloved of late 60s proto-garage bands like the Monks. 'Billy Speed' is a sneering punk take on stomping glam-rock, while 'Hearts Of Love' and the title track see the band giving the in-vogue shoegaze revival a big-budget, widescreen makeover. The nods to the Jesus & Mary Chain (a lazy comparison maybe, but unavoidable) and girl-group pop are still present, of course, only now not as prevalent. Throughout the album, Ford's little touches – a reverb-drenched vocal here, some wind-tunnel feedback FX there – serve as reminders of Welchez and Rowland's desire for the album to incorporate more dub and krautrock influences. It's easy to see why Crocodiles are now a full, five-piece band: the original duo would never be able to reproduce Sleep Forever's steroid-pumped noise on their own.

In a way, Sleep Forever sounds like Crocodiles have grown up in fast-forward. The cleaning-up of their sound, and the overall maturation of the songs is something you'd expect from a band over the course of maybe four albums in a decade, not two albums in just over a year. This record may well lose them a few fans, but the last laugh could just as easily go to Crocodiles; although it's not an obvious comparison, they're tapping a similar vein (dark, psychedelic scuzz-rock by way of indie-dance) to the bafflingly successful Kasabian, and there's already a lot of "sing-along anthem" potential in the material on offer here. It's hard to imagine a band like Crocodiles really breaking through, but they wouldn't be the first, and they certainly have more bite (ahem) than the majority. While Summer Of Hate had more character, Sleep Forever has the harder punch; it's now up to the band what they do with it.