In my circle of musically inclined friends, The Growlers are often met with mixed reviews: you either love ‘em, or you think they’re mediocre.
Some think that they try too hard to fit within the confines of a Twin Peaks-esque sound, while some purely love them for their catchy, self-described “beach goth” genre. On 2016’s “City Club,” the band found themselves under the direction of Ultimate-Cool-Dude Julian Casablancas, their hazy beach vibes scrubbed clean with New York disco and thrust into a leather jacket for good measure.
Their newest album “Casual Acquaintances,” released unbeknownst to fans and followers last week, is a classic case of an album where a band goes back to their roots. They embrace their gritty vibe once again, throwing out the glossy new sound just in time for a tour and their own Beach Goth festival.
All 10-tracks on the album come from the “City Club” sessions, surprisingly, filed on the album notes as “demos, works-in-progress and other unfinished business.” Which probably means the tracks were created during a time of shiny, catchy alt-pop releases, but slathered with mud and grunged back down to their old sound.
Opening track “Neveah” is a fuzzy quip that leads to “Problems III,” which brings an element of synthesizer and drum machines to a beachy baseline and Brooks Nielsen’s vocals. “Heaven and Hell” hints that this is, in fact, the old Growlers back at work with a slinking drumbeat, and doo-wop backing vocals. “Pavement” oozes noir attitude and dark lyrics — refreshing for a band that’s pretty upbeat, for the most part.
The standout track on the record that’s worth talking about is definitely “Orgasm of Death,” tackling a fear of death and an understanding of the end, which is a recurring theme of the album. Nielsen sings of this constant fear of something throughout the tracks, which are occasionally interrupted by weaker songs like “Last Cabaret” and “Thing For Trouble,” which are clearly just cuts from “City Club.”
The bouncy closing song, “Casual Acquaintances” is classic Growlers: the negativity of society backed by sunny music. While the album itself isn’t really anything to write home about, it’s still good. And it’s songs like this one that make you smile.
Life may suck, and there may be “clouds on a sunny day,” but at least you have a pretty good soundtrack for it all.
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