Above photo by Shane Hirschman
By Charlie Vargas
The self-proclaimed “Beach Goth” and psychedelic surf band, The Growlers, traded in their beachy sounds on their new album off of Cult Records titled, “City Club” but it was done in a style that didn’t eliminate their authenticity. The production of this album was led by none other than Julian Casablancas, previous front man of The Strokes, who also created Cult Records, his own independent record label. It was no surprise to see Casablancas take them under his wing after a series of tours with The Growlers as his opening act for his solo project, as well as a shared stage at the music festival Beach Goth IV last year.
“City Club” was perfect to start with. The intro riff itself sounds like something The Strokes would totally do, which was a subtle reminder of the influence and help of Casablancas. As soon as the guitar riff fades away, the funkiness begins. The bass starts rising and pumping while the drums keep kicking, the new album’s vibe is revealed in the track. If you were a fan of the song “Chinese Fountain” from the previous album, this is the next step to their experimentation on the disco side. The second song, “I’ll Be Around” started off with an afro-funk drum beat which meshed the elements of traditional choruses and catchy little guitar parts to get your head nodding just a bit.
Afterwards, “Vacant Lot” reminded its audience that their trippy song writing is brilliant in whatever fashion it’s done. This song has an infectious bass line in the background along with a synthesizer keeping the rhythm consecutive. Very soon, a small pause occurs, and when it continues their singer Brooks Nielsen adds in a vocal hook to the synth-wave beats that immerses listeners into a trippy but dance-able song. This approach really pushes past anything they’ve done before allowing them to flex some of their new musical diversity. Their experimentation prevails in other songs too like “Dope on a Rope” the most pop and disco sounding of the album but reaches out to a more dance based audience.
Returning from the time travel of the first tracks, “Night Ride” relaxes tense shoulders with what sounds like a soothing smooth jazz intro, with a steady drum beat that keeps the track grooving throughout. This song was definitely a notable one. In their previous albums, The Growlers have been lyrically inspired by love encounters all the way to acid trips and partying, but this songshowed a different side of those moments which alluded to weariness.
In the track Nielsen sings,
"Over and over again
till’ you can no longer pretend
you are sane
tried but you couldn’t
and the ending still will never change."
his song talked about a monotonous lifestyle of partying constantly which may be a reflection of the band’s status after touring so long without many breaks.
Another song that really stuck out of the album was “The Daisy Chain” which used the sounds of an organ with a sprinkle of Motown guitar. This was an upbeat song throughout and the lyrics conveyed a response to the wonders of the band’s well-being. The lyrics to the track began addressed to the concerned by saying,“Feeling pressure on every side everyone wondering if I’m doing alright, I’ve never asked the same question, yes this is a confession,” and in their chorus Nielsen ends with “We don’t care where we go at least we’re not alone.”
In the closing verse of the song Nielsen finishes by saying, “I don’t want to push them all away/I don’t want to play those games/I don’t want to show them I am me.” The overall message may be ambiguous but fans can only wonder about their well-being.
The Growlers may have changed their sound but it still stays trippy and keeps their songs fun, despite some of their darker messages in their lyrics. In spite of the change of sound produced on this record, The Growlers proved to be musically flexible as well as successful in their experimentation. One thing the band can be sure of after this album is no matter what they do next, they can do it in the confidence of success.