The sound that Sweet Crude have isn’t one that you can sit down and design: If you throw Cajun traditional music, Gabriel-esque world pop, tribal drumming and ’60s sunshine harmonies into a blender, odds are you’re going to come up with a mess. Sweet Crude makes it work together beautifully, and that seems more a product of the chemistry of the individuals in the lineup than any calculated plan.
For their first full-length CD, there were two things the band needed to get right: They needed to capture it properly, and they needed to show where they might take this sound over time. Capturing it proves to be no problem: The CD sparkles sonically, with the drums just as overwhelming as they are live, and the balance of melody and rhythm is maintained. They have, however, polished the choral vocals in a way that doesn’t always come through live: Songs that sound like group chants onstage reveal layers of harmonies here, and that makes all the difference in a song like “Ancient Maps”—one of a few songs here that shows an appropriate ecological theme and gets a haunting touch from the wordless chorus (it also doesn’t hurt that the repeated drum part is oddly reminiscent of “Tomorrow Never Knows”). But the spirit of the band is unashamedly joyful, and the inclusive, celebratory feel of a song like “Weather the Waves” is true to both the Cajun and harmony pop traditions.
As for where they’ll go next, the disc offers some intriguing possibilities. They could throw Alexis Marceaux more upfront as lead singer, since her solo turn on the single “Mon Esprit” is a grabber whether you speak French or not. Then again, Sam Craft does a good job playing the arena frontman on “On Est Paré,” the album’s one swing into full-tilt, guitar-driven rock. They could even get deeper into synth-pop, as they do on “Laces”—which sounds remarkably like Eurythmics gone to Cajun country. We guess that’s what you’d call Bayou-Rhythmics.