Howler - America Give Up

by Steve Reynolds Rating:3.5 Release Date:2012-01-16

Ah, the indie fraternity has a new saviour? Or does it? Apparently so if we're to believe the lamentable music tabloids and it's all thrown into the hands of rather laconicly named Minneapolis five-piece Howler. The group's head honcho and protagonist, Jordan Gatesmith, created the band having failed to get it right in other genres, including metal. His switch to indie could be his best move for the sake of his own career and might just extend his longevity.

Riding on a tide of promotion and constant airplay, there is a heavy air of expectation swirling round their necks. It's not something they have created themselves, more about the weight of media pressure to produce something that will sell a million records and crates of tacky merchandise. This either galvanises a band fully or reduces them into a bag of nerves under the pressure, thus sending them straight to the bargain bin, although it's hard find one of those darn things anymore! Their music has been compared to the early fervour that made The Strokes' debut so gripping and pristine and, though it might smack of lazy journalism, it's very easy to see why that's the case.

Opener 'Beach Sluts' has promise and guile but very quickly descends into a straight-ahead indie template with Gatesmith's sub-throat shredding vocal in need of some much needed heavy duty Night Nurse. 'Back to the grave' instantly recalls JAMC's 'Taste of Cindy' with its dowdy downbeat vocal. 'This One's Different' takes the drum pattern and drive of The Strokes' 'Hard to Explain' but it's all rather contrived and earnest which gives off more than an air of desperation and it's quite frankly rather boring to listen to. They certainly seem like a band trying too hard to prove a point, hence the rather muddy and bland 'Told You Once' and its sixth form style lyrics: "When I told you once, when I told you twice, there is nothing in this world I would sacrifice" - all rather pathetic.

The highlight of America..., though, is the single 'Back of the Neck', with its emphasis on fun and looseness and its haunting, whoop vocal and Chuck Berry-esque guitar twang. It's an extremely inventive piece of indie-pop in the mould of Pete & the Pirates. However, it's a temporary respite as they descend back into lumpy guitar 'Free Drunk' and the rather messy 'Black Lagoon'.

Bereft of ideas and creativity, America... is a hugely disappointing album. Howler might think they are infallible now they are darlings of the music press in some quarters, but if they keep thinking like that they could be Razorlight. Enough said, eh?

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