Review Summary: Howler's debut: endearing, angsty guitar pop
Howler are essentially guitar pop. They use God knows how many guitars to create a layered sound that’s insanely catchy, at its best in “I Told You Once”, listen to that track once and that tune will be jangling round your head all day. Jordan Gatesmith’s vocals are “easy to love and easy to hate”; husky, throaty, and a bit goofy, but they tie in well with Howler’s ethos.
The playful, twangy music is often at odds with what really draws you into Howler’s debut; the cutting, blunt, whiney lyrics. They are at once pretentious, bordering on proud, and down to earth in that they are blunt and truthful, like listening to your average teen’s thoughts: insecure, angsty and awkward. There’s no lovey-dovey schmuck in what are basically very merry break up songs (sample: “You’re a bitch and I hate you”). If Howler weren’t so youthful and fresh they’d be accused of bitterness.
Their riffs are similar to The Vaccines in simplicity and effectiveness, but Howler actually have the edge here because their hooks are more varied, building and complex. In this EP there are moments when pop becomes country. Not folk, country. But with Howler all this adds is bounce and dance-ability. Hats off.
Though Howler’s debut EP is endearing, consistently good and a lot of fun, I’m hoping their album (America Give Up, January 2012) will bring more variety to keep them exciting, otherwise they’ll deflate faster than you can say “NME hype”. The thing is, no, Howler are not sophisticated, no, they’re not ground-breaking. But do you know what? They’re not trying to be.