It is not a new comparison, and I’m sure the band itself is getting tired of hearing it, but it is too obvious not to point out the similarities between the new indie rock band Howler from Minnesota and their New York counterpart The Strokes. They are even signed to the same label. But honestly, what indie rock band wouldn’t want to be compared to The Strokes? These are large footprints to fill, but for modern day indie rock they are the standard. Lead singer Jordan Gatesmith is a promising lead, but he has a long way to go before he will touch Julian Casablancas. While Howler’s “America Give Up” hardly touches The Strokes debut “Is This It,” it’s a genuinely good album of its genre.
There are a few differences between Howler and The Strokes,namely that Howler sounds a little more rock’n roll and a little less indie. Their guitar is less refined and their songs feature a few more rocking guitar solos. The album itself starts off with the somewhat puzzling song “Beach Sluts.” It has a few great moments, but it is not exactly the most engaging song to woo listeners in. In fact, on an album with a good amount of catchy songs, this selection is all the more puzzling. The first half of the album, in general, is far less impressive than the later half. Their lead single, and one of their best songs, “Told You Once” doesn’t appear until the eighth track. The best song of the album, “Back of Your Neck”, which doesn’t add anything new to the equation, but rather perfects the old formula, comes in as one of the last songs. Whoever arranged the album did so with little regard to new listeners, who generally make their decision about a band after the first two songs. However, other than this, “Free Drunk” and “Black Lagoon,”with their more mellow and subdued melodies, are both good closers for the album.
The band has been hyped up so much that their debut has probably disappointed more than a few fans of The Strokes who are still looking for another “Is This It.” But if listeners cast aside their lofty expectations, then they can probably appreciate this album for what it is, a promising debut from an indie rock band. The lyrics are rarely complex and the choruses are not that unique, but the band works well together and the few tracks where they really hit their stride should make listeners eagerly await their sophomoric attempt.