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.
When digging for new tunes, I generally seek to hit a comfortable cross-section of the familiar and the innovative. Sure, it would be great if every artist we digested offered up an inherently novel idea, but nine times out of 10 that simply is not the case. As a result, I often find myself gravitating toward projects that contain some element of home. On the map, East Los Angeles appears a half-lightyear away from Indianapolis. However, newly formed garage outfit Criminal Hygiene is a direct reflection of the sounds that pour out of the DIY spaces of Indy’s Fountain Square on a weekly basis.
Criminal Hygiene’s brash, fuzz-driven sound appears built around a single motive: quickening the pulse of the fortunate souls within earshot. The group recently dropped the track “Blak Water,” available for free download below. It’s the first taste of the band’s debut LP CRMNL HYGNE scheduled for release via Small Smile Records on January 15. Awash in distorted rebellion, “Blak Water” transplants the listener to the basement of a raucous college house party. The stench of stale keg beer and the smothering choke of an aggressive bong rip are almost palpable. In creating this environment, Criminal Hygiene feels more like an old friend than a new acquaintance.
Written by Rob Peoni