HOWLER – America Give Up
reviewed by Patrick Hosken

America Give UpThe first 34 seconds of Howler’s “Beach Sluts” will determine whether you want to continue listening to America Give Up, their debut, or pour a gallon of Clorox into your ears to cleanse your senses. For me, it was the former, but it wasn’t due to some foreign impulse — I was hooked, inebriated by the fuzzy grime of it all.

Howler sounds a tad caustic, but only for their lo-fi production. The music is moneyed with hooks and wealthy in glass-eyed beach pop. The guitars are muddy and frisky. The vocal delivery is goofy-yet-authentic. Sound like a group of fresh-faced Minneapolis 20-year-olds? Well, it is.

At least, that’s leader Jordan Gatesmith, whose effortless whine often dips into a low bellow, though nothing resembling the band’s interesting name choice. He’s not as neurotic as Rivers Cuomo, but his band veers toward “Blue Album” power-pop a dozen times on America Give Up. “Back to the Grave” sounds like Weezer supporting a coked-up Julian Casablancas. Twinkly lead single “Back of Your Neck” is college-radio ready with its Girls and Smith Westerns sound-alike status.

Tied for best track are “America” and “Free Drunk,” the latter a murky rhythmic squall in which Gatesmith murmurs about finding a girl as if he’s in the titular stupor. The peppy “America” is bolder and more coherent, breaking off after two-and-a-half minutes for a killer coda where Gatesmith repeats “I give up” until there’s nothing but the squeal of feedback.

Whenever a band starts out at such a young age, there’s always the potential they’ll get better. The guys in Howler don’t need any guitar lessons, though. They’ve captured the spirit of youth; now let’s see what they do with it.

(Rough Trade Records, 66 Golborne Road, London W10 5PS UK)

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