Review: Senile Crocodile – s/t [EP]

From England’s post-industrial chip shop heaven of Hull emerges a strange, multi-coloured beast sporting three equally frazzled heads to whom the concept of ‘bizarre’ is an end in itself. Through every abstract hook and outlandish riff, Senile Crocodile make it impeccably clear that weird is what they strive for. Citing influences as disparate and oddball as Captain Beefheart, White Denim and, um … Gong (who are up there with the likes of Yes etc. as one of the least cool bands ever) there seems little possibility that their debut E.P would turn out to be anything other than an eyebrow-raising curiosity.

Foremost, the record exists as a refreshing blast of unrestrained musical dexterity, unperturbed by any sense of self-consciousness and wrought with an abundance of humour. It exists as the antithesis to the warbling drivel and XX derivatives that spew unceasingly from Radio One – all striving for some degree of poignancy through a trite reverb inflicted minimalism that exudes all the carefree joviality of an accountancy conference in Kettering.

At the core of Senile Crocodile’s adventurous musicality lies a paradox, a conflict of interest that exists between the two sonic palettes the trio have flung together with wild abandon and a juvenile mischief. The foundations upon which the band build their wonky, unorthodox dirges are pure garage rock – the genre that celebrates rawness and simplicity, with pretension and overt-embellishment as subject of scorn. Meanwhile, Senile Crocodile’s ingrained oppositional stance melds the rough-hewn primal howl of garage rock with prog’s excess and penchant for fantasy. The jumbled array of reference points are further twisted resiliently into a pop context that ignores traditional song-structure in favour of a songwriting approach that seems to view any repeating motifs or outright choruses as a kind of weakness.

Somewhat predictably, everything sounds incredibly disjointed, with varying sections seemingly placed next to each other on a whim, riffs pasted together, lurching between ideas. ‘Five Year Plan’ mutates from up-tempo garage pop into a psychedelic haze, the apparent quirkiness of the intro dissolving into bleary-eyed noise-gasm via a detour into off-beat indie-dance drums. ‘Voyager’ and ‘Modem’ each seem to consist of two short songs that have been unwillingly joined together- the first section a squirming pop-infliction, the second an instrumental piece that descends into expansive psychedelia. The pattern recurs on ‘Terms and Conditions’, the first section amounting to a perfect little pop tune before being subjected to Senile Crocodile’s favoured method of splicing together disparate riffs, to questionable effect.

The trio seem to suffer from a serious case of ADHD, always fiddling away and unable to focus on a particular mood or motif for longer than twenty seconds before shooting in the opposite direction in recurring bursts of energy and incomplete ideas. Senile Crocodile are certainly an acquired taste, the group’s insistence to cram as many riffs into the songs sees most of the tracks beset by exhaustive fret-based tomfoolery that yearns for an ounce of self-control to be instilled. Yet Senile Crocodile manage to remain more than simply a sum of their influences – idiosyncrasies are certainly realised, but their overall impact, coupled with their disorientating song-layout is hard to latch on to. Ultimately, a curiosity that fails to hit a nerve.

2 out of 5 high fives!

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