In the five years I’ve been writing music reviews, I’ve put a lot of thought into my role as a critic. Should I be a tireless champion of the music I love? Should I be a curmudgeonly crank who yells about everything that’s wrong with modern music? I think, like most things in life, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Since the genesis of file sharing, music fans have been given access to an overwhelming amount of music that is impossible to wade through alone. I see the majority of my job as wading through the bullshit and putting little warning signs or gold stars on each album I encounter. I’m not arrogant enough to believe that my opinion on any one band is the only one that matters. Some bands are going to aim for a sound that I don’t care for and when I come across a band like that, I try to imagine the type of music fan they’re hoping to reach and talk about the band in a way that will pique that kind of person’s interest. In a review, I’ll discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the group and how well I feel they managed to convey the feelings and sounds presented. If you’re wondering why I opened with this self-centred pre-amble, it’s because The Crockford Files by Crawl is a terrible record.
Crawl is a Toronto-based hard rock outfit steeped in nostalgia. Bands just like them have been played on alternative rock stations for at least twenty years and even at the height of their popularity, bands like Creed, Nickelback, and Saliva were panned and maligned by critics. The problem isn’t that Crawl can’t play their instruments or write songs, I just can’t imagine or want to believe that in 2016 there is anyone other than the band’s members who still wants to hear this style of music.
To be fair, whenever the songs on The Crockford Files enter an instrumental break my loathing lessens. Sure, the guitar and bass tones on each song are the same and dated as hell, but the instrumentation is tight, and they know how to write groovy riffs with matching drums. The EP’s biggest problems arise whenever the lead singer opens his mouth.
His typical alt-rock warble sounds like a mix of Josey Scott, Chad Kroeger, and James Hetfield with the occasional operatic flourish pioneered by Bruce Dickinson. This cheesy, metal-tinted, post-grunge nightmare of a mix could have been saved by exceptionally thoughtful or poetic lyrics, but, unfortunately, the album disappoints there as well. In the blandly titled “Dead,” the way the lead singer aggressively speaks the line, “Your tortured heart is dead,” was unbelievably corny. Might I add that the lyric in question is from a song that opens with the line, “In the season of the witch,” and features the line, “your brand of evil I have never seen before.”
Nothing about The Crockford Files feels relevant or interesting in today’s modern rock scene. Given that I have yet to meet anyone who looks wistfully back on the era which this band draws so much inspiration from, I can honestly say that the world doesn’t need more groups like Crawl. Even fans of heavy, metal-based, jock-rock should skip this record and simply forget that it exists.
Written by Brian Charles Clarke
*edited by Danielle Kenedy