There's no question that The Growlers are a band with a strong work ethic. Hardly leaving the road for more than a week or two, the Californian five-piece worked on a number of self-released offerings before signing to FatCat records for this year's full length LP Hung at Heart. New EP Not. Psych! will be released exclusively in Europe and features seven brand new songs full of the band's jangly, surf-friendly indie pop.
Lead vocalist Brooks Nielsen has one of those voices that could not belong to anyone else; albeit it is somewhat reminiscent of Julian Casablancas' early warbling for The Strokes. It sounds like the guy has smoked a lot of cigarettes and drank a load of straight whiskey over the years. But to be honest, it's done him some good, producing the kind of signature wails perfect for the psychedelic-indie genre. Opener 'Dogheart II' starts off in usual Growler fashion - sun-kissed strums and almost lazy snare hits, it sounds as if these guys have been drinking on the beach all day and decided to have a jam in their basement. You can almost see one of their girlfriends with her Farrah Fawcett hair swaying from side-to-side, as Nielsen utters his poetic imagery "Use the moon to steal the sun's kiss".
'Hiding Under Covers' puts the band's influences at the forefront, with Manzarek-like synths and simple, psychedelic song structure. Nielsen's effortless vocals do come off a little lazy here but the execution is a charm of The Growlers and one that they make full use of. 'Tell It How It Is' speaks of a self-involved protagonist that could easily be autobiographical. Again, the simple song structure works here but the easy drum thwacks do become a little tiresome. You're almost willing the band to take things a little further, knowing they're capable of more - it's frustrating to hear them recycle the same beats and wholly similar riffs.
'Humdrum Blues' is the 'single' of the EP. Starting with a moody bass line and a thumping tom with Nielsen sounding better than ever. Speaking of a girlfriend that wants a “ring on her hand” rather than a vague commitment that isn’t “enough to keep her wondering what I do when I’m gone", Nielsen’s emotional, cracked execution evokes certain feelings that the band had yet to conjure on the previous offerings. As he sings “I never wanted money/ never wanted to chase these dragons/ not afraid of being lonely/ but if she leaves I don’t know what will happen”, it showcases the heartache of balancing a band and a relationship that most artists will no doubt be able to relate to.
'Ol' Rat Face' is immediately reminiscent of The Doors' 'Alabama Song', with tales fit for a hard-working bartender. This is band that like to tell drink-fuelled stories but often, they get to the point of that annoying mate who won't stop spieling come 3am. They've pinpointed their sun-kissed, psychedelic-indie genre but it does end up a little too obvious at times. Not. Psych! continues in this fashion, with 'Change in Your Veins' and 'Nobody Owns You' sounding a little like cut-offs from full length Hung at Heart. Sure, their pop aesthetic is appealing and the opening finger picking in 'Nobody Owns You' is more than a little catchy but these are songs that really don't jump out - they're the kind of music you stick on and almost forget it's playing.
Self-producing the E.P. is an impressive feat and one that The Growlers should be proud of - sticking to their guns and offering up their token D.I.Y. take on songwriting. Whilst 'Humdrum Blues' is a stand-out, pop fuelled track, the rest of the offerings are a little lacklustre - showcasing what we already know about this band and unable to conjure up any new excitement. Hopefully as winter approaches, this Californian bunch will hibernate and come out fighting in the new year.
6Sammy Maine's Score