The Cajun rock band's recent EP is balanced, almost to a fault.
Even numbers are a problem. I need more than Sweet Crude’s recent four-song EP, Critters, in part that’s because it makes clear why the Cajun French, percussion and vocals-first rock band has struck a nerve. Every song is at least charming, most are fun, and each surprises with its musical invention. No mode is overworked, so the epic drama of “Mon Espirit” doesn’t become the EP’s dominant mood, nor does the South Louisiana Remain in Light-ness of “Isle Dans La Mer” or the sly wit of “Laissez Les Lazy.”
I also need more to get a sense of what the band's upcoming album, Creatures, will be like. The EP is a teaser, but its a very democratic one that features the breadth of the band’s identity, so much so that one doesn’t emerge clearly. Coherence comes through the band’s emphasis on percussion, synth textures, and voices, not any attitude, thematic point of view, or dominant personalities. Alexis Marceaux sings “Mon Espirit” as if she is standing on a windswept plain overlooking an ocean, standing strong against time and fate, and its spare arrangement matches her irony-free determination. “Laissez Les Lazy” is charmingly wry, replacing the folk roots of “Mon Espirit” with classic pop that brings to mind ‘60s girl groups as well as Generationals’ “When They Fight, They Fight.”
In a way, that makes Critters an EP for its moment. Every song will sound warmly human and fresh when it comes up in a playlist or mix, and each song validates the attention and enthusiasm Sweet Crude has generated in the last year or two. At a time when people are streaming more and owning less, sweating the complete, cogent statement may be unproductive work, particularly for an EP—typically not a format we approach with high conceptual expectations.
As a teaser for Creatures though, Critters tells us more about how good Sweet Crude is and less about the album they’re in the process of making.