Posted on March 20th, 2014 (8:00 am) by Francesca Lillie

Howler was number 3 on NME’s best new bands list in 2011 when they released their EP This One’s Different. They’ve had success out of the gate, their album, America Give Up, has also been critically acclaimed, music journalists everywhere speaking of their potential and their sound. Their sophomore album World Of Joy, released under Rough Trade, has a somewhat different sound than their previous two releases had. America Give Up had more of a punk sound to it, while the band’s latest is more influenced by the ‘60s garage rock and pop. The Minneapolis natives have given several interviews stating their influences (Yardbirds, The Strokes, The Rolling Stones, Dion DiMucci) and it’s clear that they’re trying to sound a certain way, but because of that this record becomes predictable and doesn’t sound like anything new. World Of Joy is like eating premade food that you usually get to eat homemade, they aren’t at the level of the bands that they’ve been associated with, but they still sound pretty good.

Is it bad when a band fits neatly in a genre? No, Howler are still a fun band to listen to, and every band falls into some type of label. But the problem is that Howler seem to be drowning in it. Endlessly being compared to other bands (some of them really great acts like The Smiths) and with their change in sound (not a drastic change, but enough to be noteworthy) makes you wonder who Howler really are, what their own voice really is. In Howler’s song notes, singer Jordan Gatesmith says, “I feel that whenever I write, music or words, I'm in a conversation with the ones who wrote before me and the ones who will write after me.” It’s great to be aware of how you’re influenced, but with all the namedropping it’s hard to give Howler stature, and it shows that they lack some originality. Even Gatesmith admits that “Louise” sounds cheesy, but drummer Rory MacMurdo pointed out to him that “Little Mascara” by The Replacements is cheesy too, but still a good song. This too is true for “Louise.” It’s expected from an indie rock band to write a song named after a girl, but even if the song is cheesy, it’s catchy. When you listen to this record without reading the song notes you’ll hear a typical indie rock record, and Gatesmith’s funny explanations make the songs more likable, but the fact that they chose to write a little something about each song proves that the songs don’t have that strong of a statement alone. It sounds like Gatesmith is singing that Ian Nygaard is on drugs on the song “Drip” but it’s really about how he gets sick all the time. The explanation is funny, and the song itself is light-hearted, but it’s one of the worst on the record. One of the guitars sounds whiney and sloppy, which may have been the intent, but it doesn’t work. World Of Joy is like the title, the songs aren’t very serious, and there’s humor in them.

Despite all the criticism, World Of Joy has quite a few strong tracks. Songs like “Yatch Boys” and “In The Red” are songs that are better than the ones on America Give Up but they have a similar sound to the songs on their previous album. “Don’t Wanna” is another catchy song about being who you want to be. The best song on the album, “Aphorismic Wasteland Blues” has a clear ‘60s influence to it, almost written like a singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar and no drums.

Those who like indie rock or rock music influenced by the ‘60s should check out Howler’s World Of Joy. The songs are likeable, but predictable with not a lot of clear standouts. Howler have a lot going for them; they just need to figure out who they are as musicians. You can describe them to sound like a bunch of different artists, but you can’t quite put your finger on who Howler are yet. Maybe that unpredictability will be an asset to them in the future, but right now it sounds like they’re drifting through the rock genre, not quite certain of where they should stand.

Track List:

  1. Al’s Corral
  2. Drip
  3. Don’t Wanna
  4. Yacht Boys
  5. In The Red
  6. World Of Joy
  7. Louise
  8. Here’s The Itch That Creeps Through My Skull
  9. Indictment
  10. Aphorismic Wasteland Blues
Howler - World Of Joy cover art
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

61 / 100
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