Album Review: Howler – Give Up America

By on Tuesday, 7th February 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

Words by guest reviewer Matt Abbott of Skint and Demoralised

As we all know, there have been an abundance of outstanding debut albums from indie rock bands over the last decade. The lines between a distinctly British musical sound and a distinctly American one were blurred beyond recognition, and the indie world was united in worshipping the heroics of The Strokes, The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys and dare, I say it, Razorlight.

So if you’re going to release an album that slips into this bracket in 2012, you’d better have produced something worth listening to. The rest of the music world has abandoned us in favour of a latter-day bastardised version of r&b and the latest dance trend in dubstep, leaving skinny jeans and dingy bars for us hardcore devotees to the indie rock genre.

And whilst the Howler album isn’t particularly inventive or imaginative – in fact, it isn’t really inventive or imaginative whatsoever – it is fun to listen to. If you happened to stumble across these guys at a festival, you’d be guaranteed to have a great time dancing around to their set whether you knew their songs or not. Similarly, if somebody put this album on at a party you’d definitely ask who the band were and track them down online a few days later.

But at the same time, if you were scanning through your music collection looking for inspiration then this album probably wouldn’t jump out at you. This isn’t directly intended as criticism, mind: it doesn’t sound as if that was Howler’s intention when they created this. They don’t appear to be craving critical acclaim or trying to generate a ground-breaking sound. They’re out for a good time, and this album will certainly give you one if you’re in the right mood.

That reason that I referenced Razorlight in the opening paragraph, albeit cautiously, is because this album reminds me of them throughout. Don’t get me wrong, there are other apparent influences as well, but the trademark tones of Razorlight’s early sound is a constant on this record. And if you take a moment to ignore the prancing pretentious knobhead that Johnny Borrell quickly revealed himself to be, those first few Razorlight albums were fun to listen to when they came out. You can’t deny that they had a certain knack for nailing the catchy, atmospheric indie rock tune down to a T.

My personal highlights on this record were opening track ‘Beach Sluts’ – which had won me over by the end of the first chorus and made me want to play it again immediately – and then later on the atmospheric and aptly titled ‘Back of Your Neck’ (watch the video below). I can also see penultimate track ‘Free Drunk’ really growing on me as a defiantly laid-back foot-tapper. Again, it’s nothing we haven’t heard before, but since when does that stop music being good?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swg9X1LcXm8[/youtube]

If I find myself at a festival this summer that boasts Howler amongst their line-up then I certainly won’t be stumbling across their set; I’ll be going out of my way to catch it. Next time we need an album to stimulate a 4-hour drive in the back of the tour van, this will no doubt be amongst my suggestions. I might not listen to it in 3 or 4 years’ time. But right now it’s a good album, and I definitely recommend buying it. Certainly not a bad start to indie-rock in 2012, anyway!

7/10

‘America Give Up’, the debut album from Howler, is available from Rough Trade now.

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[…] floor way past their start time. They’re in no hurry, because between their two albums (2012’s ‘America Give Up’, and now the one-week-old ‘World Of Joy’), they’ve no more than a single hour of […]

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