Minnesota indie-rock quartet, Howler, have returned with their second album, ‘World of Joy’. Following their debut ‘America Give Up’, released two years ago. As Rough Trade poster boys lauded with the exhausted “guitar music is back” maxim that keep the NME awake at night, Howler are ripe for second album syndrome.
The opening track, ‘Al’s Corral’, is packed with front man Jordan Gatesmith’s rough vocals, infectious guitar riffs and a chorus that is pretty catchy… eventually. You’re dragged into the classic Howler rhyme scheme and the carefree beach-bum lyricism emits that get-up-and-go feeling that their fans seem to love.
‘In The Red’, continues to revisit the Howler sound of 2012. The tangy guitar melody is electrifying, and with the added double drum hit at the peak of each riff, you’re driven into the heart of the band’s airy universe. It’s not one thats moved much in the 2 years off, but there’s something fun about it just like there was first time round.
The title track, ‘World of Joy’ breaks the mould ever so slightly. Gatesmith’s vocals are twisted into a lo-fi urgency, allowing the barbaric basslines and reverb-heavy guitars to come to the forefront. This track demonstrates the progress and experimentation that they’ve gotten to grips with. In part, they seem like a new band but there is an unmissable streak of their original charm. They seal the deal by keeping the vocals on the down-low, allowing the relentless instrumentals to hypnotise and engage without backing down.
Cuts like ‘Louise’ and ‘Here’s The Itch That Creeps Through My Skull’ are the sound of band making a very calculated but not unimpressive progression. They are weightier than songs from their debut but don’t show off much maturity or coming-of-age. They are clearly students of the guitar-heavy bands that came before them (especially the alumni of their label) and have adopted a lot of ideas and tricks from their predecessors. This is no bad thing and the concerted effort to escape sophomore syndrome is admirable. ‘World of Joy’ is a definite grower too, if you let it lie and play it a few times then some of the premeditated nuances pack more of a punch. It was never going to be easy for Howler, and in trying - albeit a little to hard - they have delivered a follow up to ‘America Give Up’ that won’t compromise the fan-base but probably won’t see it inflate.
Words: Cerys Kenneally