Built upon the psychedelic, garage rock of the California neighborhoods they hail from, the music of The Growlers maintains an inherent atmospheric intensity, smartly countered by a playful execution. Lead singer Brooks Nielsen’s course voice and casual delivery compliment a moody, distorted production that the band has previously declared to be “Beach Goth.” Released on September 23rd, Chinese Fountain has exposed this proclamation to be both a fitting description and a self-fulfilling prophecy. Previous releases including Are You In or Out?, Hot Tropics, Hung at Heart and Gilded Pleasures, have aided the group’s no-frills, lo-fi aesthetic, but their new record has an easy energy that differs from previous collections. The forlorn air that the album creates may lead us through stories of “Black Memories” and “Rare Hearts,” but the group’s affinity for somber melodies and delicate hooks has seen them produce melancholy music that retains its bite. The West Coast, surf-rock influences are there, but this is darker and more brooding than the legendary music it channels. And by thickening the clouds that populate the blues skies of California, Brooks Nielsen, Matt Taylor, Scott Montoya, Kyle Straka and Anthony Braun Perry strip away the polish associated with the genre, creating a sound that revels in it’s own eccentricity.
On the title track of their fourth full-length album, Chinese Fountain, lead singer Brooks Nielsen spits out lines detailing the changing state of popular culture, and how that change has often resembled a decline. By projecting the ancient mythology that surrounds the image of a Chinese fountain, the band uses a symbol of prosperity to pose thoughtful questions about how consumerism has effectively muddied the waters, making them “so filthy, it’s no wonder why we’re drunk.” The portrayal of dwindling patience and a nation-wide adherence to an ignorance-is-bliss mindset is as intriguing as their decision to drape their feelings of concern in a night-club worthy drumbeat. It’s an interesting juxtaposition that sees the band sonically satirize the very culture they are questioning. But it is on the standout track, “Good Advice,” that the Growlers really hit their stride. Capturing the internal torture that accompanies unrequested advice, the group inhabits an attitude and swagger that would make the Strokes blush. It’s a true garage rock masterpiece, as unadorned and raw as it should be. All of this making the Growlers worthy of wearing the crown of a new, exciting genre in music: surf rock with a hangover.
Article by: Caitlin Phillips
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