Howler – America Give Up (Music Review)

America Give Up cover

Howler – America Give Up

America Give Up, Howler’s full-length debut, has gotten a lot of attention this year. I can sort of see why, though it hasn’t thrilled me the same way. Bouncy surf-rock with a constant fuzzy drone and hooky riffs, this is the bubblegum pop version of garage rock. It’s a style I like, but partly for the substance that often goes with it. In Howler’s case, they don’t have the variety of Black Lips or the lyrical depth of Goodnight Loving. The catchy sound can take them far, admittedly.

The band comes across as youthful and optimistic, in a complete contrast to their album title. In fact, it’s almost hard to notice that the songs cover the half-angry, half-stoned territory common to garage rock: I usually come away from the album feeling vaguely like I’d just heard some eager, lo-fi Beach Boys covers. In reality, they sing things like “A shotgun wedding at a quarter to five/I shot the husband and I sleep with the bride” and “You think we’re Bonnie and Clyde/But both of them fucking died”. Nothing too offensive, of course. If anything, I probably get that feeling because of how carefully calculated it sounds. At least, when I hear Howler sing “I hate myself more than I hate you”, it seems to have little more meaning than “La la la” would.

The group’s catchiness fails it only twice: Once in “Too Much Blood”, when they slow their sound down and seem to reveal the lack of any substance behind them, and conversely on “Black Lagoon”, when the attempt at a more aggressive song just comes out wrong and feels irritating. (Being the last song on the album, its annoying anti-hooks are a real problem.) Otherwise, America Give Up is a fun, upbeat album. It’s just immediately forgettable afterwards, except for a few lines from “Black Lagoon” that I’m trying to forget.

Grade: C+

 
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