…and here they come, the latest hotly tipped great white indie guitar hopes, straight outta Minneapolis.
The general concensus amongst those many of those who profess to like their indie is that indie is ‘in crisis.’ Much of this depends on what you define as ‘indie.’ Personally speaking, I think it’s quite encouraging that the best-selling album of 2011, Adele’s 21, was released on XL (the indie label who have also given us the likes of The Prodigy, Friendly Fires, The Horrors and M.I.A.), and that the critics’ choice of 2011, PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake, was very much a recordborn of the indie scene. If anything, what has been suffering is straight-ahead chart indie – largely because a lot of it really wasn’t very good.
So: the questions to be asked of Howler (signed to long-running, even in its second incarnation, indie Rough Trade) is are they any good? Can they turn the fortunes of indie around? They first appeared on most people’s radar last summer with the release of their five-track EP, This One’s Different, which certainly generated a lot of praise in both printed and online media. The two outstanding track from that release (the title track and ‘Told You Once’) reappear here.
If you are looking for innovative indie, then you probably are not going to find it here. However, if you are looking for an upbeat album to beat away those post-Christmas blues, then this debut LP hits the spot. Whilst much of it is in the vein of both The Strokes (who are labelmates) and The Vaccines (who they toured with just before Christmas), there are signs of where the band may be developing their sound from here. ‘Too Much Blood’ is slower and dreamier than much of what else is on offer here, giving you an idea of what The Ramones might have sounded like if they’d decided to sound like the Velvet Underground. There’s also a hint of surf guitar on ‘Back Of Your Neck’ and ‘Free Drunk’ suggests they may just be discovering the likes of My Bloody Valentine and the Mary Chain.
It’s too early to tell whether Howler are going to change the fortunes of indie around. However, this is a fun album, which doesn’t mess around (eleven songs in just under thirty-two minutes) and is worth hearing.