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Like many fine bands before them, Crocodiles worhsip at the twin altars of noise and melody, and while they may tilt more in one direction than another at different times, their music is always hooky, decadent fun. The duo of Charles Rowell and Brandon Welchez hit the ground running, and the band's early albums like 2009's Summer of Hate, were fully formed, neon-lit nuggets of garage rock-meets-Jesus and Mary Chain. Future albums may have favored the hooky side of the equation (2013's Crimes of Passion) or tabled the guitars for synths (2016's Dreamless,) but as 2023's Upside Down in Heaven proved once again, their radiant blend of noise and melody never dimmed. Rowell and Welchez met during their formative teenage years in San Diego. Playing together in various incarnations since then, including in the Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, which featured Welchez on vocals and Rowell on guitar, the duo re-formed in a lo-fi capacity under the name Crocodiles in April of 2008. Heavily influenced by the droning noise of Spacemen 3 and the catchy melodies of the Jesus and Mary Chain, the duo self-released a distortion-driven 7", Neon Jesus. The record was championed by No Age on a Stereogum best-of-2008 poll and brought them considerable attention. Subsequently, the Crocodiles' debut full-length Summer of Hate was released by Fat Possum in late April of 2009. That winter, Crocodiles put out a Christmas-themed split 7" with Dum Dum Girls and prepped their follow-up, Sleep Forever, for the summer of 2010. After adjusting their lineup to include bassist Marco Gonzalez, keyboardist Robin Eisenberg, and drummer Anna Schulte, Rowell, Welchez, and the group traveled from their hometown of San Diego to Berlin in order to record their third full-length. That album, Endless Flowers, was released in the spring of 2012 on Souterrain Transmissions in the U.K. and French Kiss in the U.S. Crocodiles' fourth album, 2013's very focused and poppy Crimes of Passion, was produced by the Raveonettes' Sune Rose Wagner and featured just the duo of Rowell and Welchez, plus the occasional guest on backing vocals and horns. Taking a break from the band after that, Welchez recorded an album with Dee Dee of Dum Dum Girls, under the name Haunted Hearts. The group reconvened and set up shop in Mexico City to record its next album. Working with producer Martin Thulin, the duo continued refining the poppier aspects of its sound, while incorporating some Latin influences. Boys was released in May of 2015 on Welchez's own Zoo Music label. Their next album was recorded in the same location, with Thulin contributing instrumentation as well as production. Arriving in 2016, Dreamless de-emphasized guitars and used keyboards and other instruments to fill in the arrangements. The distorted, fuzzy guitars were back in full force for the duo's next album, 2019's typically decadent and dark Love is Here, which was issued by the Deaf Rock label. The band spent the early months of 2020 pandemic recording cover songs and releasing them on a series of cassettes that went under the title of Shitty Times. They also split their energy; Welchez working with Kate Clover in her noise pop band and Rowell making industrial dance music under the name Crush of Souls. That project released a single, "Call You," in late 2021, while Clover issued a Welchez-produced album titled Bleed Your Heart Out in April of 2022. Meanwhile, the duo were working on music together, recording in France with producer Maxime Smadja and a rhythm section of drummer Diego Dal Bon and bassist Atef Aouadhi. The resulting Upside Down in Heaven sanded off some of the rough sonic edges of the previous record while lyrically delving into death, decay, and bitterness. The album was released in April of 2023 by Lolipop Records.
© Jason Lymangrover & Tim Sendra /TiVo
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