Originally for ‘SUP MAGAZINE
The Growlers have been making a name for themselves in Los Angeles for almost three years. After releasing eight volumes of their epic EP, Couples, throughout 2007 and 2008, they’re on the tail-end of a high profile residency at the Echo. Soon thereafter the Growlers were recruited for some dates with friend Devendra Barnhart. They’re now releasing their ‘debut’ (what that makes ‘Greatest Hits’, their first album, I don’t know) Are You In Or Out?.
The Growlers manage to flesh out, in only 18 tracks, their reverb-soaked ditties that skate lightly between surf-rock, beachy odes, and vaguely insane swamp stomps, retaining what makes them so endearing: their distinct and utter Californian-ness. The interplay between Matt Taylor on guitar and Brooks Nielsen on voice is the firm foundation on which the Growlers machine runs and provides the tension that keeps the songs taut. Album opener ‘Something Someone Jr.’ lets Nielsen explore the concept of having a name over Taylor’s echoing riff driven forward by heavy cymbals on the chorus, and finishes with what must be one of the Growlers most poetic insights, “if something is a way of saying you don’t know / then a name is just a way of being visible….”
Mid-album stronghold ‘Barnacle Beat’ is a Growlers live classic due to its groovy beat, “I’m a go down to the corner of Beach and / dance in the street to the barnacle beat”, held together by Taylor’s jingle-jangle riff, the haunting but too vague use of the organ, and Nielsen’s voice which manages to be gritty, glib, sparse and strangely shrill. Nielsen’s vocals tend to be the star of the songs for when he is smooth, you’re sucked in for better or for worse, and when it’s worse and his voice is meager or cracking, it’s always endearing.
‘Acid Rain’ is jangly, melodious acid dream song that mocks the way Californians view the rain during their ‘winter’, but gives us insight into the disconnected, bizarre mind of Brooks Nielsen, which in cahoots with the rest of the insanity housed in the Growlers, is partially responsible for their charm. The organ is criminally underused on this album and the bass makes more of an impact live, but the end result is the product of a band who have tested these songs live a myriad of times: a strapping, confident debut of juvenile impishness transformed into stable, vibrant odes to life and love in California (Everloving, 2009).