Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Howler - America Give Up

It's become pretty common knowledge that beginning of year hype, particularly for guitar bands, can be a poisoned chalice. Just look at some of 2011's buzz proprietors, names like Mona and Viva Brother fading into obscurity quicker than past X factor winners.

Howler are a Minneapolis group, who following the praise lauded onto their debut EP 'This Ones Different', have been the recipient of many a tip from 2012's almighty taste makers. Thankfully though, Howler's debut full length lives up to the hype and indicates signs that Howler may be in this game for the long haul.

The album is concoction of heavily Strokes inspired quick-fix indie hits and more rock-centred romps, themed around typically teenage subjects (Girls & Drinking) but also with some slightly more unexpected twists. Opener 'Beach Sluts' is one of the aforementioned, classic indie tracks in waiting. The track's basic guitar model, accompanied by Jordan Gatesmith's tales of "drinking in the afternoon" and smoking cigarettes aren't exactly breaking new ground, but are delivered with enough urgency and cheeky rebellion to make even the most bitter cynic succumb to it's youthful charms. Notions from the first track, that the album will be more of the same are instantly shattered with the thrilling 'Back To the Grave'. Jordan's vocals sound more foreboding than moaning, as he creepily poses the rhetorical question "Where will you be in 2023? In someone else's arms and not with me" with knowing pessimism. With ghostly "woos" from his band mates echoing in the background over feedback heavy guitars, it's an absolute joy, in an album that could have been so formulaic.

'America Give Up' also features the three best songs from the EP, most notable of the three being the newly titled 'Wailing (making out)' a slightly more literal title than the previous 'You Like White Women, I Like Cigarettes'. Again it's borderline impossible not to compare it to some of The Strokes earlier work as Jordan wails "I'm so tired of making out!" No doubt there'll be plenty more offers of making out for Jordan from female fans, as the lad pretty much embodies the stereotypical indie poster boy.

Another standout track is undoubtedly 'Back of Your Neck' a rockabilly explosion of fun, that along with 'Told You Once' give Howler two future anthems that are literally begging to be screamed back at them by adoring fans in whichever enormo-dome or major festival slot they could be inhabiting in years to come.

This said, the record isn't perfect though by any means, 'Too Much Blood' is a slow-burner that ends up chasing it's own tail, and detracts from the more boisterous cuts elsewhere. And the least said about the largely boring 'Free Drunk' the better. But these blips aside, Howler have crafted a very promising record, which will no doubt strike a chord with many due to it's undeniable sense of fun and Jordan's witty and wholly likeable lyrics and personality. Howler have dealt with the threat of hype impeccably and the Rough Trade signed band are certainly worth investigating.


By Toby McCarron

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