Be prepared to fall in love with The Growlers all over again. The beach-goth gang have returned with their fourth LP, Chinese Fountain, and it’s an album to blow away the musical cobwebs. The 11 track work was recorded in a week and a half stint and is full of catchy melodies and the band’s wondrously dark, surf-rock sound.
There is a real feeling that something has moved on through this record, and the band themselves have described that it has a more grown-up feel about it and that they found the process of putting the album together much more straightforward than they had in the past. The songs feel more complete, though they still retain that rugged Growlers sound that has cemented their place as one of the most unique and likable bands of the past few years.
Big Toe was the first song to be previewed from the album, and really gives a flavour of what the album is all about as it sets the mood of what’s to come. With its whimsical tales of lost love, it rises and falls and is full chromatic surprises. It’s heartfelt and pleading, and stands up as a more sophisticated Growlers track. It still retains their bad-boy image though, but the simplicity of its structure works wonder. When Brooks Neilsen cries out in his signature style: “She’s a cold bitch/She’s turning me silver/She’s got me on the bridge/Looking down the old cold river” adds another little glimmer of magic to the track.
The album’s title track is the one that highlights how the band have really begun to develop and experiment more with their sound. At first, it’s dubious whether this slightly disco-inspired number really works. The surf-beach-goth conundrum that the band were founded upon gets further complicated by a Nile Rodgers dance guitar riff and synths. But it works. And it makes you want to dance.
If you’ve ever seen The Growlers in the live setting, you will know of the electric energy and chaos that seeps through the whole show, and that energy does get a bit lost on this album. It’s only really Good Advice that comes close to capturing that chaotic charge that permeates through their vivaciously fun live shows. There’s also a brutal honesty that seems to permeate through the lyrics of the song.
It very much wears its heart on its sleeve and lays all its weapons on the table. It has got a brilliant rough-around-the-edges feel that makes it all the more endearing and personal. Perhaps it’s something to do with the pace in which it was recorded, but songs such as Going Gets Tuff sound as though the band are directly in front of you in your living room. It really is as personal and direct as that, is what will draw you in further to its world of jangling riffs and catchy choruses.
It glimmers in so many different ways. Love Test is like a deep word of warning and advice of how to deal with women and love, whilst Not The Man talks endlessly of heartbreak and how love can affect your character. It’s helplessly romantic and hopelessly swoon-worthy with its alternative take on love and heartbreak.
It’s an album that will enthrall those who are already fans of the band, but probably won’t win over anyone who isn’t yet on board with their beach-inspired garage rock. Chinese Fountain really is everything that you would expect from these beach grungers, but it’s still fantastically unique and sparkles delightfully with fun and a sheer honesty. It’s like that old flame that you keep coming back to, because he always has a cheeky grin on his face, even though he’s a bit hopeless when it comes to love. An undeniably endearing record.