Since signing to Rough Trade this summer, Minneapolis quartet Howler have surfed a steady wave of ‘nu-Strokes’ hype. Determined by the music press to be this year’s ‘saviours of rock n’ roll’ (see The Drums – 2010, and The Vaccines – 2011), a degree of unnecessary expectation awaits the bands debut LP America Give Up. So, is this it?
Opening track ‘Beach Sluts’ shows some promise. Bringing to mind the snot-nosed surf-punk of Wavves, it’s nothing if not immediate. This is quickly followed by ‘Back To The Grave’, a song that would been better titled ‘Back To The Mary Chain’, given Jordon Gatesmith’s karaoke Kilbride accent. There’s some more magpie musicianship on ‘This One’s Different’ (the aforementioned Strokes), and ‘America’ (borrowing Nick Lowe’s ‘So It Goes’ for its outro). Herein lies the biggest problem with America Give Up – as rich as the melodies on this record might be, it’s overall lacking in identity. Certainly they’re a proficient little four-piece, showing flair for new wave imitation and rock n’ roll riffery, but like too many before them they’ve been thrust into the spotlight with nothing to say.
Redeeming tracks come in the form of the band’s two perfect singles – ‘I Told You Once’ and ‘Back Of Your Neck’. The former is a vibrant mixture of handclaps and self-loathing, while ‘Back Of Your Neck’ brims with the kind of youthful vigour that could justify journalists’ hyperbole. What follows however, is another attempt at Casablancas indifference, as floppy-haired frontman Gatesmith yawns his way through ‘Free Drunk’ (a contender for an Angels b-side had it been written by the Strokes themselves). Sadly, this 32-minute album isn’t here to save the antiquated art of guitar music. It is, all things considered, still a pleasant piece of slacker-pop and rock n’ roll pastiche.