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Live Review: Howler at Newcastle Cluny – 1st April 2014

 
By on Friday, 4th April 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

Jordan Gatesmith is an unlikely frontman – all gangly limbs and sharp features, mostly hidden by a mop of floppy blonde hair. He keeps banter to a minimum, letting the songs take precedence over personality in his band’s short, sharp, 45-minute set. The Cluny is half-full, a fact that the band seem nonplussed about, casually working out set lists on the stage floor way past their start time. They’re in no hurry, because between their two albums (2012’s ‘America Give Up’, and now the one-week-old ‘World Of Joy’), they’ve no more than a single hour of recorded music to their name. Even if they played every track of both albums (they won’t – of which more later), they’d be tucked up in the Travelodge with a cup of cocoa before the witching hour.

Howler are exactly what one could wish for from a U.S. garage band. Casual onstage, unconcerned with niceties, they knock out one deafening energy bolt after another. In case anyone was concerned that Howler might have overnight turned into a lounge band, the first few seconds of the performance assuage such doubts: ‘Drip’ is fast, furious, ramshackle. ‘Yacht Boys’, Gatesmith’s blunderbuss critique of the boat shoe-wearing American upper middle class, complete with spiked guitar work and roared vocal refrains, is perfectly suited to live delivery. However, subtlety is in inverse proportion to energy levels tonight – more down tempo pieces like ‘Don’t Wanna’ (“you don’t have to be a punk / date girls / listen to the Smiths if you don’t want to”) are given the same whirlwind treatment – introspection is dropped in favour of immediacy.

Also missing in action is the psychedelic tinge that infuses parts of the new album, most notably the title track. Notably penned by guitarist Ian Nygaard rather than Gatesmith, it hints at a potential brave new world where high-speed observational punk-rock coexists and even combines with spaced-out psychedelia. A Howler 2.1 that investigated these possibilities would add another dimension to the band’s sound. However, tonight it is the drum insanity of Rory MacMurdo is the powerhouse that drives Howler. The rest of the band are urged to play faster and louder by MacMurdo’s kit, transforming the whole into greater than the sum of its parts. There are moments when one can see through the artifice: a quartet of teenagers rehearsing in a parent’s garage, striving to stand out from the Graham’s number of other similarly housebound aspirants. But it’s their genuinely melodic, meaningful songs, paired with a delivery with just the right mixture of careless virtuosity and attitude, which confirm Howler’s membership of the big league.

 

Album Review: Howler – World of Joy

 
By on Wednesday, 26th March 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

The defining moment of Howler’s sophomore release, ‘World of Joy’, is its title track. The passenger door opens, and still at top speed, any memory of youthful, throwaway ditties about girls and under-age drinking are unceremoniously ejected, forever to languish by the side of the road. What replaces them is an enormous, uncompromising Phrygian riff, some insane, atonal organ, countless layers of distorted guitar – and the song title repeated over and over again. It’s like being assaulted by The Joker’s teeth – a sickly sweet psychedelic smile of a song, determined to make you submit to its groove by sheer force of personality alone.

Not that the rest of the album is exactly easy listening. Ten tracks in 28 minutes shows an admirable attention to brevity – less than half of the tracks here broach the 3-minute mark. ‘World of Joy’ is a collection of brief jolts of energy, like sticking a fork in an electrical socket. There’s no clever production techniques – indeed, on more than one track a point is made of retaining the studio ambience: talking in the background, amp hum, mise en scène artifice at once clichéd yet effective. ‘Al’s Corral’ sets out the stall – cowbell, a guitar 101 riff, and a story which presumably makes sense to teenage American males. ‘Drip’ is the first hint of how psych Howler are prepared to go: 50s B-movie sound effects adorn a 2-minute noisefest of threatening intensity. ‘Don’t Wanna’ comes over all relatively melodic, the clean guitar arpeggios reminiscent of The Lemonheads’ ‘Ray’ period, and could even be the stroppy cousin of early R.E.M., comparisons which recur throughout the album.

This is American garage rock, wildly updated for 2014 – of course the U.K. has had its fair share of ramshackle indie revivalists, from the millennial soap opera posturing of The Libertines, who with hindsight sound tame and overblown, to the recent noisy bromance of Palma Violets, whose promise still remains tragically unfulfilled. Thus Howler have a neat vacuum into which to step. They are faster, louder, crazier – simply better – than the competition. After a long period of the Brits showing the Americans how to do garage rock, here’s the payback. Rock and roll is alive, and it lives in Minneapolis.

8/10

Howler’s second album ‘World of Joy’ is out now on Rough Trade. The band just began a UK tour with support group Broken Hands on Monday; all the details are here.

 

Howler / March and April 2014 UK Tour

 
By on Thursday, 20th March 2014 at 9:00 am
 

Minneapolis rock quartet Howler have just announced a spring headline tour of the UK, featuring support from Kent’s own Broken Hands.  The video for Howler’s new single, ‘Indictment’, was recently featured by Mary here, leading up to the release of their new album, ‘World of Joy’, out Monday on Rough Trade. The tour begins next week; tickets are available now.

Monday 24th March 2014 – Bristol Louisiana
Tuesday 25th March 2014 – Brighton Bermuda Triangle
Wednesday 26th March 2014 – Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach
Thursday 27th March 2014 – Nottingham Bodega
Friday 28th March 2014 – Birmingham Temple @ The Institute
Sunday 30th March 2014 – Manchester Deaf Institute
Monday 31st March 2014 – Glasgow King Tut’s
Tuesday 1st April 2014 – Newcastle Cluny
Wednesday 2nd April 2014 – Leeds Belgrave Music Hall
Thursday 3rd April 2014 – London Oslo

 

Video of the Moment #1473: Howler

 
By on Wednesday, 19th March 2014 at 6:00 pm
 

Minneapolis rockers Howler are getting ready to release their next album ‘World of Joy’ next Monday (the 24th of March) on Rough Trade, and it follows their 2012 debut ‘America Give Up’. Ahead of that, here’s the second song to be revealed from the LP, called ‘Indictment’. Watch the video below.

The Americans embark on a UK tour starting next Monday in Bristol through to the beginning of April. Support will come from Kent’s Broken Hands.

 

Video of the Moment #1432: Howler

 
By on Wednesday, 22nd January 2014 at 6:00 pm
 

Minneapolis indie rockers Howler have released a brand spanking new video for ‘Don’t Wanna’, the first taster from their upcoming album. Out the 24th of March, ‘World of Joy’ will be released on Rough Trade. Not straying too much from their 2012 debut LP ‘America Give Up’, ‘Don’t Wanna’ should hit the spot for long-time Howler fans. Watch the video below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50QFJJQGTrs[/youtube]

 

Video of the Moment #960: Howler

 
By on Saturday, 8th September 2012 at 6:00 pm
 

Boys will be boys was my initial reaction to the new NSFW or kiddies Howler video for ‘Told You Once’ (I made the mistake of queueing this video up at work – oops), but director Robert Semmer explains it so much better:

While lurking in the dark corners of the Internet I became fascinated with those little windows that constantly pop up offering “live adult web chats”. Whether illegally pirating music or looking at leaked photos of naked celebrities, without fail I’d get a visit from a questionably dressed young lady in her basement begging to have some fun on the old PC. I actually started to think about who these people were and what actually happens if you give them your credit card number – aside from the identity theft.

“I presented these very relevant and important questions to my pals in Howler who instantly agreed the topic needed further exploration. Rough Trade put up some money, my producer put down his credit card, we screened captured everything and now there’s a video for ‘Told You Once’.”

“In the end we learned you truly can get people to do whatever you want as long as you have an account number, expiration date, and a three-digit security code.”

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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