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America Give Up is an album of more or less as many hits as misses, and a few true highlights that make the album worth listening to. Although originality is a little low on the ground, Howler more than make up for it with their bloody minded focus on thrashing out another good tune.
If you’re after a band who don’t sound like anyone else, look elsewhere – although they do have a lot to offer the casual listener, it doesn’t seem much like active listening. Tunes like ‘Too Much Blood’ and ‘Wailing (Making Out)’, the mellower, more major key ones, are the ones really worth listening to. Their fuzz-smothered sounds are like a cross between My Bloody Valentine (something about the mixture of heavy, aggressive overdrive and the delicate ‘oohs’ and aahs’ layered over the top) and The Strokes, although without the key elements that make both bands so iconic. And while it may just be personal preference, their sound is a little messy for my liking – I think I would be a little more comfortable with something more concerted and distinct.
They seem a lot like their British contemporaries Yuck, although with less purpose and direction in their songs – not that this is a bad thing, however. In some ways the meandering, fuzzy structures of their songs are something that make Howler distinct from the other breakout acts of 2012. It would be more suited to being put on in the background than listened to intently on headphones, although again, this isn’t meant as a criticism. The album is still an enjoyable ride, although a pretty snappy one, at just under 32 minutes. The lyrics, while largely unintelligible, are fun, mostly lines about swigging from a bottle of whiskey and then having a drag from your girlfriend’s cigarette. The album makes it feels like they would put on a bloody good live show, although perhaps quite a deliberately lacklustre one.
Overall, while they’re not a band who break new ground, they’ve got some bloody good songs and a bloody good image. This year looks to be a big one for them – they’ve been tipped for greatness by NME and their frontman, Jordan Gatesmith, seems an enigmatic and intriguing enough character to forge the way ahead for them.