Artist to Watch: Howler, the Twin Cities’ latest export

The four young members of Minneapolis band Howler have yet to gain widespread attention here in the states, but expect that to change. The rockers with the poetically primate name have already garnered plenty of buzz in the UK from the likes of NME and The Guardian-Observer, and last year they were signed to London based label Rough Trade based off an unsolicited demo alone. In other words, this is the kind of American rock music proper that the Brits go crazy for, plain and simple.

With a mean power-pop sound heavily indebted to rock and roll’s past, Howler are already gaining comparisons to The Strokes circa Is This It— and while the sonic similarities in (full-length debut) America Give Up’s production values and singer Jordan Gatesmith’s vocal styling are undeniable, a more apt musical comparison would be fellow Minneapolis rockers the Hold Steady and the Replacements, or those venerable grandfathers of hook-heavy midwestern indie rock– Guided by Voices.

From the hand-claps of opener “Beach Sluts” to album standouts like “Wailing (Making Out)” and “Free Drunk”, the boys of Howler take us to school on crafting no-bullshit power-pop that perfectly balances Gatesmith’s disaffected baritone snarl with sugary-sweet hooks… and they’re not even of legal drinking age yet.

While plenty of musical comparisons can and have been made, the thing that makes “America Give Up” such a refreshing take on traditional heartland rock is what it doesn’t sound like. Dialed-up distortion and reverb that avoid both “wall-of-sound” shoegaze-isms and the sonic clichés of garage rock revival… Americana lyrics (“I want a girl and a new car, I need a drink and a guitar, I wanna die young as a star”) that forego waxing conceptual about the capital “S” Suburbs… and most importantly, for all the post-punk ‘80s-aping by indie rockers over the last decade, Howler, wise beyond their years, harkens back to the kick-ass, shaggy-haired, denim jacket glory days of 1970s rock and roll. Let’s just hope these youngsters don’t fall into the same vat of hair gel and pigeon shit as the Kings of Leon, that last American band hailed by the Brits as saviors of rock and roll, did.

The Kids are Alright