The Growlers “City Club” Album Review
Two years passed since gloomy surf-rockers The Growlers released their forth LP “Chinese Fountain,” which showcased their beach goth brand of music at its absolute best. It was the same sound and sadness, only cleaner, slicker and catchier, and as big on memorable melodies as their debut, “Are You In or Out?” Now, with “City Club,” The Growlers are back to play surf riffs over sad lines again…and they’re all out of surf riffs for the sake of evolving and reaching a wider audience.
That’s what takes the central stage on new album: the evident desire to seamlessly grow as a group of musicians and become a much bigger band. They definitely succeed in the opening titular track that justifies its name with glossy upbeat vibes and prancing echoing lines, a song that would be an ultimate fit for the opening credits of GTA: Vice City. “I’ll Be Around” carries the disco torch forward in what might be the most layered and catchy Growlers track yet, to be succeeded by dark and sexy “Vacant Lot.” The latter shows Growlers’ updated sound could take them straight from lowbrow ocean shores to highbrow Big City and its glaring neon signs. Here, the songwriting is nothing but thorough: walloping bass with electronic beats, aptly draggy vocals and sleek trippy guitars are tightly bottled in only three minutes.
The Growlers are back to play surf riffs over sad lines again…and they’re all out of surf riffs
Sadly, the album starts dimming after next song, “Night Ride.” The Growlers always looked to the past for inspiration to their music while reflecting the perplexities of millennial generation and its uncertain future. In “City Club,” they seem stuck between the past and the future, unable to move on, much like the generation itself. They don’t dare to take their new sound further, mixing it with the old formula for the rest of the album, showing us familiar Growlers, but without the swaying sounds of surf rock. As a result, remaining songs are deficient and, in the end, forgettable. “City Club” is well-produced and polished just like “Chinese Fountain,” but lacks vivacity and heart (and psychedelia, for that matter). Therefore, it lacks The Growlers people came to know, offering nothing in exchange but a few cool-sounding party songs.
Wait! There’s something more dispiriting. Towards album’s end, there’s “Blood of a Mutt,” a sorrowful song about maturing that clocks at more than five minutes and never truly delivers on a dramatic end solo it promises. If you want to drink the sadness away in a karaoke bar in the most dramatic way possible, there might not be a better song.
Otherwise, I wish Growlers the best of luck, whether they decide to stroll back to beach, dazed from wine or else, or go deeper into the demanding racket of the Big City.