Unfortunately for Howler the Strokes’ last album wasn’t a stinker; otherwise this spirited bunch of young Minnesotans would probably take their place as the rightful heirs to the throne of fuzzy, floppy-haired, lo-fi strum ’n’ roll. While Casablancas and Co. can still bear each other’s company long enough to show the young pretenders how it’s done, bands like Howler will continue being the young wannabes stuck in the kitchen at the cool kids’ house party.
That’s not to say Howler don’t have the tunes or the indie cred to have the Strokes looking over their shoulders, and in front-man and Johnny Borrell-lookalike Jordan Gatesmith they have the song-writing-and-cool-haircut combo that makes hipsters and label bosses alike cream their jeans. Upon hearing their unsolicited demo, Rough Trade boss Geoff Travis couldn’t get across the Atlantic fast enough to make Howler his new charges. Gatesmith, a self-confessed Stiff Little Fingers fan, jumped at the chance to sign.
America Give Up showcases Howler’s ability to blast out catchy rock-pop hooks blended with vintage sounds. They avoid the risk of being labelled a rip-off or bandwagon-jumping band by plundering the archives of dirty rock ‘n’ roll to create an energetic, fun, and frantic debut. Single ‘Told You Once’ epitomises this best; its simple, jaunty riff defying you not to tap your feet or crack a smile. ‘Back of Your Neck’ encapsulates 50s Elvis riffs, spritely ooh-ooh-oohing, and weapons-grade swearing. Elsewhere, ‘Beach Sluts’, ‘This One’s Different’, and ‘Free Drunk’ provide plenty of riffs with just the right mixture of poise and slop.
America Give Up is a fantastically-promising debut album full of charm and potential. So, until the Strokes release their next masterpiece or pack it in altogether, enjoy this bunch of upbeat, tousle-haired tunes. While America Give Up doesn’t quite make Howler the new international world beaters some sections of the music press have labelled them, it’s a cracking debut. And that’s something we can all appreciate. (Rough Trade)