Review: Howler - America Give Up

 It seems that these days, whenever we see a list of new bands you need to check out at the start of each year we are presented with a bleak and ever-so-slightly irritating selection of alternative rock bands who are heavy on electronic elements and are crafted specifically for hipsters. Minneapolis' Howler is not this. Having featured in NME's list of Top 100 New Bands of 2012 the group have a good chance of earning themselves a few new fans this year, especially if debut America Give Up gets the reaction it's deserving of.

 Howler has a sound that totally sets them apart from the various other alt rock bands rising from the underground simply by playing a collection of short and sweet rock songs but with an extra sense of grit, grime and classic punk added to the mix, along with an influence from American garage rock, shoegaze and a touch of surf rock as opposed to bloated synthesizers and an intent to haunt listeners. Not that that's always a bad thing, but it means those acts can't sound like Howler, which is to sound effortlessly cool.
 While an influence from classic hard rock artists like Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones can be found across the album, there are points where it seems like Howler have perhaps been paying attention to other contemporary alt rock acts, with Wailing (Making Out) having the pounding grunge and garage rock influenced riff attack with the relentlessness of The Joy Formidable and opener Beach Sluts having the definitive sound of Arcade Fire with the distortion levels set much higher. With that in mind, the gentle but captivating vocals of Jordan Gatesmith do carry a reminiscence to Win Butler.
 The frantic garage rock riffing means there's always a lot of thrills, spills and fun to be had, like the bouncy rhythms of Back to the Grave and the frantic America and Back of Your Neck, songs which are very much a modern update on surf rock, which allows for the genre to be much heavier and more pounding guitar-wise than ever achieved in the 1950s or 60s. Of course the pinnacle of this sense of fun and joy is in the simple punk rock charmer Told You Once which pretty much confirms Howler to be this generation's Ramones.
 Even in the darker moment of the album, the party is still going strong. The gothic wailing from Gatesmith and massive hooks of Pythagorean Fearem give the song an untrustworthy sense of evil, which still manages to fascinate and stay catchy and the stony and icy riffing of the most shoegaze inspired Too Much Blood will elevate listeners to a higher sense of awe and captivation in it's walls of sweet distorted sound.
 America Give Up is clear evidence that already rising bands are getting off to a flying start in the year, managing to be effortlessly impressive, especially if like Howler, they're getting down and dirty and making what is a very pure sound of American rock n' roll.

Howler's America Give Up will be released on 16th January via Rough Trade Records. The band will tour the UK from January to February.