Album Review: Criminal Hygiene ‘CRMNL HYGNE’
A cauldron is bubbling in Los Angeles. If Ty Segall and his Bay Area cohort serve as the current epicenter of garage rock, then the LA scene is its misfit younger brother. He just got his first fake ID, but hasn’t yet been tossed around by enough bouncers to know when to keep quiet. From the polished (Allah-Las) to the rambunctious and squirrely (The Orwells, Gap Dream) this group is latent with a crop of talent well-studied and cocksure enough to add a noteworthy chapter to a saturated genre.
Criminal Hygiene‘s misspelled, self-titled debut CRMNL HYGNE proves the least predictable and arguably most unrefined release of the bunch. It’s a raw sound that ranges from full throttle prog-punk one moment to bleak, atmospheric melancholia the next. Criminal Hygiene leans more heavily on the aggressive, early 70s-era garage rock than the sun-baked, late 60s Box Tops and Nuggets material that feels like the driving force behind its peers.
CRMNL HYGNE breaks down into 17 tracks, however a handful serve as 45 second segues or more accurately momentary tangents. More than a symptom of the group’s collective ADHD, these deviations serve as the transition sentence between what might otherwise feel like disjointed paragraphs. Despite the lengthy track listing, the album clocks in at a concise 43 minutes.
Criminal Hygiene’s modus operandi remains faithful to garage rock’s three and four chord progressions built around rebellion and angst, but the band isn’t afraid to take risks. The circus-like keyboard line and boiled down mantra of “Get An Education” serves as an excellent example. Criminal Hygiene doesn’t force their aesthetic by screaming, “Fuck School!” Instead, the band relies on the absurdity of the song’s structure to question authority for them.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there can never be too many bands like this. As long as disenchanted youth need an outlet for their angst there will remain an audience for a release like CRMNL HYGNE. It may not prove as cerebral as the latest art rock album, but that doesn’t make it an any less satisfying kick in the pants. Grab your copy of the album from Small Smile Records. Check out our initial post on Criminal Hygiene’s debut single “Blak Water” and listen to “Rearrange Me” below.
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Written by Rob Peoni
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