Written 26th March 2014:
Howler – World of Joy
Howler – World of Joy
The Band: Jordan Gatesmith (vocals, guitar), Ian Nygaard (guitar), Max Petrek (bass, keyboards), Rory MacMurdo (drums)
So today’s review sees the long-awaited return of US Minneapolis-based 4-piece Howler who are finally making their return after seemingly falling off the face of the planet since releasing their enjoyable, surfer and slasher-based style of garage-rock with 2012 debut album ‘America Give Up’ (previously reviewed in Flynndie Reviews #22). Now suddenly seemingly out of nowhere the band are returning on the Rough Trade label, with this ‘World of Joy’ out this week but has the long break done the young-upstarts a ‘world of good’ or created a ‘world of pain’ with this their second full album?
World of Joy
1. Al’s Corral2. Drip
3. Don’t Wanna
4. Yacht Boys
5. In the Red
6. World of Joy
8. Here’s The Itch That Creeps Through My Skull
10. Aphorismic Wasteland Blues
Opening with the fuzzy, upbeat and rocky guitar rhythm of ‘Al’s Corral’ this track sees Howler return to their light-hearted but distinct garage-rock style which was a major feature of their debut album while Jordan teases with lines “I won’t say yes but I might say maaaay-be/If I drink and I ask around/It’s the only place for me”. It’s a fun, energetic opener with a nice hint of Thin Lizzy underlying the track and gets the record of to a fine start. ‘Drip’ is another full-on garage-rock number, featuring plenty of layers of guitar distortion used throughout, with a staple guitar-rhythm that ‘Up the Bracket’ by The Libertines was built on and a raucous Ramones-esque repeated chorus “Drip/Drip/Put him on a drip”.
Meanwhile third-track ‘Don’t Wanna’ is a real standout and somewhat calms the pace of the album with some dreamy but still upbeat, semi-acoustic guitar-pop featuring some of my favourite lines on the album “You don’t have to be anyone if you don’t want to…You don’t have to listen to The Smiths if you don’t want to”, which ironically, or perhaps more so intentionally, is followed with a delightful, jangly Smiths-like guitar solo. For the record I would actually highly recommend going back and listening to the full The Smiths back-catalogue and certainly feel that actually this third track is the band’s nod of approval to the legendary Manchester band. ‘Yacht Boys’ opens with a haunting, western guitar-solo backed by an 100mph guitar-riff and even faster drums from new band member Rory. Another no-nonsense, raucous garage-rock track with an underlying menace to it, this is what The Strokes would sound like on acid, and also reminds me of forgotten psychedelic rockers 80’s Matchbox B-Line Disaster.
‘In the Red’ follows next and is another rocky, upbeat affair and smacks of rhythms of The Clash and The Ramones with a dreamy chorus “No I won’t do you no wrong/No I won’t do you any harm”, it’s another good fun, surfer-rock track and really shows how tight the band are playing here. Title-track ‘World of Joy’ is a much more, slower and menacing affair, as guitars and a groovy bass-line chug away at the track like a runaway train, while Jordan’s voice has an effect used on it on this track making it his voice much softer and understated and despite being the title-track, this is a much more different sound from the band than previously and perhaps the darkest track on the album so far. ‘Louise’ is another much more upbeat and incredibly catchy tune; again with Libertines\Strokes sounding guitars racing through its veins while Jordan croons about the song’s protagonist “Louise/Oh Please/I wanna tell you I love you/But I know it’s not enough!” It’s an urgent and very instant track. Not only is ‘Here’s the Itch that Creeps Through My Skull’ a barmy but brilliant track-title, but for me it’s another stand-out track on the record, with a dreamy, jangly guitar-riff at the heart of it. Another track that’s sound again shows more than a subtle nod to The Smiths and again shows more great range on display on this album from these four young shit-kickin’ upstarts from Minnapolis.
Initially percussion-driven with some hollering and wooo’s thrown-in ‘Indictment’ has a true US-college vibe about it, the perfect companion soundtrack for burning away and heading out on a long road-trip, with guitars and bass duelling right away before mid-way through the track, the song’s drops down a few gears “Well help me Jesus, right here on my search/I know I swear to you, I never burned down no church”, it’s another fun track with its tongue firmly placed in cheek. Closing track ‘Aphorismic Wasteland Blues’ has a very retro, somewhat Beach Boys sounding vibe about it, bluesy, jolly and carefree it effortlessly closes the album all the time while showing off the cheeky-charm and talent of what Howler are all about.
So after seemingly disappearing of the face of the planet, Howler have actually gone away, honed their sound even more and delivered in my opinion a quality second album. I always thought these young lads showed a lot of potential back in late 2011 with their ‘This One’s Different EP’ (also reviewed in Flynndie Reviews #19) and their early 2012 debut album ‘Amercia Give Up’ but I have to say I’ve listened to ‘World of Joy’ a few times now and am started to think this album is really starting to show these youngsters live up to their full potential. You can see many rock ‘n’ roll influences with this record, ranging from the obvious Ramones, The Smiths and The Strokes, particularly with Jordan’s “don’t give a fuck, drawling vocals” drawing a similar comparison to early Julian Casablancas, but also to the more subtle Thin Lizzy and The Stooges. I read a quote from lead-singer Jordan that the band’s aim with this record was “supposed to be almost like a jukebox at some sloppy bar in Minneapolis” and I think they really nail that sound with this record while giving the band quite a range of songs and a fun, tight, rocky record which I’ve overall been really impressed with and am going to award this one 8 “Itch’s Though My Skull” out of 10. If you like stuff like The Libertines and The Strokes I would seriously recommend checking out this fantastic record.
In the Red
Track 3 ‘Don’t Wanna’https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50QFJJQGTrs
Track 9 ‘Indictment’https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCGMoyF-a8M