Howler – ‘America Give Up’ album review

Will Howler live up to the media hype with their debut album 'America Give Up'? Luke Warren has a listen.

Expectation and apprehension must have weighed heavily on the minds of Minneapolis five-piece Howler when they signed to Rough Trade records. The label, base for The Smiths, The Libertines and The Strokes, has musical alumni so influential and distinguished, it practically carries the NME between their Noel Gallagher stories.

Their debut then, has a heap to look back on and plenty to build from. A little rough around the edges, ‘America Give Up’ is an album packed with catchy indie rock riffs, surpassing expectations of what fledgeling bands are currently achieving on first attempts.

The slow, fuzzy intro of ‘Beach Sluts’ morphs into crashing punk and bursts with youthful exuberance, as 19-year-old frontman Jordan Gatesmith sings: “I don’t even try, anymore because I’m afraid and I’m too shy.” 

The Strokes comparisons seem obvious, but warranted. On ‘Back to the Grave’ Gatesmith’s vocal sounds like Julian Casablancas (while his rolled “R”s recall Kurt Cobain) and the metronomic drums of ‘This One’s Different’ instantly evoke that New York sound.

Too Much Blood’ is a highlight with heartbeat Ronettes beats and funereal organ that underpin a swooning vocal hook creating a dreamlike quality. ‘Wailing (Making Out)’ quickly follows with atmospheric keyboards and a growling chorus of “I’m so tired of making out!”, but their heavier moments fall short with ‘Pythagorean Fearem’ lacking that instantaneousness sound compared to other songs here.

The acoustic riff of ‘Told You Once’ is blatantly Elvis’s ‘Marie’s The Name of His Latest Flame’; its melody basically Razorlight’s ‘Stumble and Fall’, while ‘Back of Your Neck’ sounds like The Libertines had they been influenced by Phil Spector and early rock ‘n’ roll, instead of Chas and Dave and drugs. 

On an album full of great tracks, ‘Black Lagoon’ is the only song that feels even remotely like filler and although ‘America Give Up’ certainly isn’t a forward-thinking album, it’s very hard not to like. Howler are definitely worth the fuss.