In December 2011 a young rabble of teens called Howler from Minneapolis, USA released their first album America Give Up on Rough Trade. Since that release and a UK tour supporting the Vaccines there’s been plenty of hype being thrown around the press about them becoming saviours of rock n’ roll or perhaps the next Strokes. With such brash notions in the midst I was intrigued to see how they would translate to the live stage.
The show was an all ages one that sold out at the Lexington in Angel, wristbands were handed out to those old enough to drink, while industry types and journalists of which there were more than a few, signed in on the guest list. There was a definite showcase feel to the proceedings with Howler taking to the stage at 9:30pm with some very young looking fans finding their spot at the front.
Promptly on-time the 5 fresh faced guys got up on stage with a bit of swagger and some banter about being drunk. Not that surprising seeing as in their own country they’re under the legal age limit. I’m sure being let loose with plane tickets, hotel rooms and some adoring fans is pretty close to heaven for most teenagers, and these guys definitely gave off the impression that they were making the most of it.
From the start of the set the dual guitars chimed into action with an onslaught of tremolo and slight overdrive backed by their pop rock rhythm section. Jordan Gatesmith the bands frontman is almost a dead ringer for Johnny Borrell and he immediately made his presence felt with his skinny leather jacket clad frame and Casablancas esque style vocals. Without a doubt he’s got something about him and his voice which makes him an ideal frontman.
As the band played through songs off their album it was pretty obvious that the most successful tunes like their single ‘back of your neck’ were those that veered back to a time well before any of these guys were born; incorporating sounds of The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry and The Stooges. Yes there are bits that sound like the Strokes (and their logo looks very similar to these keen eyes) but without hesitation I’d say Howler are best when they sound like old-time rock n’ rollers.
When the Strokes hit the scene apart from having a great album they also had something special about the band as a whole which conjured up a tribal feeling. That’s something that so many great bands have had from The Ramones, The Wailers, The Stones, The Pistols - the list goes on. I can’t say I felt that with Howler, they look like good friends but I got the sense that this was way more about Gatesmith than the band as a whole. Perhaps that tribal element will come as they continue on their tour of the world.
For now I’d say they’re a pretty decent band with the potential for a long future ahead of them. They’ve scratched the surface with their first record and being so young they can only develop. Will they ignite the rock n’ roll world? I couldn’t say. Right now the embers are calmly glowing but they’ve yet to catch fire.