While The Growlers’ 5th album, City Club, is a compilation of bangers and some unmemorable tracks, the record as a whole is a solid, unmitigated good time. To the naked ear, City Club parallels the sounds of a more tame Strokes and a more buoyant Foxygen, but these garage rockers who have been active for almost a decade absolutely occupy their very own space in indie rock. Julian Casablancas produced this album on Cult Records, obvious just by hearing the first track, though it’s also the psychedelic, retro rock influence that makes this an addicting album. While City Club may not be a traditional representation of this band, sonically speaking, the hint of psych-pop sprinkled throughout this record is not a failure, but more of an experimentation that while may not please every fan, will definitely gain some new ones.
The record kicks off to a funky start and hooks you with title-track City Club, a serious head-bop inducing tune with a gripping chorus. Julian Casablancas’ signature sound is very apparent on this track, and all who are a fan of him and The Strokes will have this one on repeat. The fun continues on with I’ll Be Around, bringing tropical feels with guitar instrumentals resembling those of The Black Keys. What’s intriguing is a fleeting guitar solo towards the end of the song that sounds like a Bollywood/rock hybrid. Vacant Lot takes a brief, gloomier turn in gothic rock style. Dope On A Rope is a more surf punky number with guitar picking similar to that of Beach Fossils (you can totally see the kids moshing out to this one). When You Were Made is a shoegazey ballad with an old-school Growlers country twang. The muzzled effect on Brooks Nielsen’s vocals are a bit distracting, but he sings a pretty melody nonetheless. The Growlers bring us some classic surf rock with World Unglued, the genre itself always making us nostalgic for some Beach Boys jams. The album concludes with Speed Living, a happy-go-lucky tune you’ll want to frolic through the streets to. It’s a light ending to the record that leaves you with some pep in your step.
Though The Growlers are a pioneer of “Beach Goth”, even establishing the annual Beach Goth festival in California, they clearly encompass a range of genres, making them an unquestionably impressive band that’ll always keep listeners on their toes. Like all musicians who are around for the long-haul, evolving artistically is an integral part of the creative process and also vital to their sanity. No matter how far left or right they travel from their original sound and tenor, beach goth is still at their core, at times just fainter than others.