Saturday, March 13, 2021

Crocodiles (1980)

Annals of postpunk: I never owned a copy of Crocodiles until a few years ago when I picked up the 2003 CD edition with 10 bonus tracks (for an album that originally had 10 tracks). Echo & the Bunnymen, if you haven't noticed, can be terribly frustrating for completists and/or originalists. The box set Crystal Days: 1979-1999, for example, does not include anywhere on any of its four CDs any version of "Going Up," the opening track on Crocodiles. What, they decided to disown it? Streaming doesn't help either. On Napster, certain tracks from that box are simply not available, nor is Crocodiles at all. Anyway, as if all this fragmentation were not enough (there are also two 1980 versions of Crocodiles but never mind), my first exposure to this album was on a tape somebody made for me. I'm pretty sure I had the whole album on one side of a C-90 and I know individual tracks also appeared on mix tapes people made for me. Listening to the album more systematically I see it's what I would have considered a one-sided album if I'd had it in vinyl—namely, side 2, which kicks off with the single "Rescue" (a long-time favorite) and elevates a notch further with "Villiers Terrace," which pounds with hysterical anxiety you just have to declaim along with in Jim Morrison voice. "Pictures on My Wall," "All That Jazz," and "Happy Death Men" follow along in the afterglow. From the vantage of my old tape collection, Echo & the Bunnymen struck me as a bit of a same-y act—that is, all the songs on their albums sounded like versions of the best song, so it was easy to just let them play. I remember Bram Tchaikovsky, the Pretenders, Gang of Four, XTC, and even Elvis Costello to some degree fit that model. These artists made for good tapes for playing all day. The first side of the original Crocodiles is also not bad, I will add—I might have ended up playing it as an "upside-down" album if I'd had the vinyl, one of those albums I would play side 2 of before side 1 but would play both sides. But side 1 of Crocodiles is definitely more spotty (the hard-to-find "Going Up" is not bad but not great). For that matter, the bonus tracks on the 2003 CD have their points as well. About half are live, and a few are alternate versions in a munge of the two 1980 releases. What a mess these guys have made in a way, but I wouldn't be without "Rescue" and "Villiers Terrace."

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