Crimes of Passion (Frenchkiss)

It's doubtful that anyone would ever accuse Crocodiles of being lazy. The duo—until recently based in San Diego—has released four albums in the last five years and maintained a momentum borne not by buzz or hype but hard work and persistence. And while hard work alone isn't enough to make good music, it can arguably be the difference between making music that's good and music that's great.

On the band's first three albums—2009's Summer of Hate, 2010's Sleep Forever and 2012's Endless Flowers—Crocodiles made good, not great, music. Make no mistake: Deep within layers of fuzz, reverb and elements borrowed from U.K. post-punk bands such as Echo and the Bunnymen and The Jesus and Mary Chain, there were some good melodies and wonderful hooks. The problem was that the band's reliance on effects and practices in pastiche sometimes distracted from what otherwise might have been a pretty strong effort.

With their fourth album, Crimes of Passion—released Aug. 20 on Frenchkiss Records—they've not quite transcended good, but they're much closer to great than they've ever been. On this 10-track effort, Crocodiles try to cast aside the fuzz-and-reverb crutch they've been leaning on, instead allowing their jangly pop songs to stand on their own. And wouldn't you know it? Crocodiles can actually write a pretty damn good pop song.

There's some Primal Scream-style piano and tambourine-heavy acid-gospel happening on "I Like it in the Dark," whereas "Teardrop Guitar" lets the guitar riffs fly, dripping with distortion and bad-boy swagger, gliding up to one of the album's catchiest choruses. "Heavy Metal Clouds" makes a subtle transition from blissful dream-pop in its verses to a saxophone-driven punk-rock chorus, which is easily one of the most unexpectedly cool moments on the album.

Certainly, there are still elements of JAMC here and The Stone Roses there, but there's a carefree confidence on Crimes of Passion that's infectious. There's plenty of room for growth, but there's also evidence that the band's hard work is paying off. Crimes of Passion is Crocodiles' best album yet.

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