Howler won’t win any points for originality, but there’s something to be said for youthful exuberance.
America Give Up is what would happen if The Strokes and The Ramones recorded an album together, and a high school kid broke in, stole the masters, and re-recorded the tracks with his 4 friends. That might sound amazing, but it’s not exactly a glowing endorsement because we have all been there and done that already. That’s not to say there’s anything bad on the record, but nothing extraordinarily amazing either. Right now, Howler seems like a case of “we like these bands so let’s make music that sounds like them” but without any of the distinctive flavor that made their influences awesome. Centerpiece and lead singer Jordan Gatesmith has a surprisingly deep voice for a kid just out of high school, but he doesn’t have the swagger of Joey Ramone or the passion of Julian Casablancas. What he does have is hooky songwriting skills.
The fact that Gatesmith wrote the best track on America Give Up at 17 gives a lot of promise that this band will grow and improve as the years go by. ”This One’s Different” was Gatesmith’s first attempt at songwriting after playing in various bands on the Minneapolis music scene and it formed the core of their EP early last year. Fast forward to their full-length release and it’s still a stand-out track surrounded by a great deal of anonymous indie rock with fuzz guitars and a simple backbeat. ”Back of Your Neck” and “Told You once” are two more tracks that make a big impression near the end of the album, but Howler needs more of them. What Gatesmith and the gang have to do now to live up to the effusive press they garnered last year is focus on what sets them apart from Julian and Joey and capitalize on what makes Jordan unique. Surprisingly enough, Howler sounds the most comfortable when there’s a slight surf undertone, a little modern rock Beach Boys just under the surface. I’m not suggesting they update “Kokomo” on their next album, but it would probably make for a more interesting album the next time.
“This One’s Different”
“Back of Your Neck”
“Told You Once”