My Friends

Arrow Up

Arrow Up
Arrow Down
,
  • Thu
    2
  • Fri
    3
  • Sat
    4
  • Sun
    5
  • Mon
    6
  • Tue
    7
  • Wed
    8
Orchids & Onions Awards Ceremony Oct 02, 2014 The San Diego Architectural Foundation presents this year's crop of design awards acknowledging the best and the "could be better" of San Diego's built environment.  54 other events on Thursday, October 2
 
Film
Errol Flynn biopic leads our rundown of movies screening around town
Theater
A very loud Diversionary Theatre offering tops our coverage of local plays
Editorial
Chamber of Commerce, led by the former mayor, launches all-out campaign to regain control of San Diego
Theater
One-woman San Diego Rep production tops our coverage of local plays

 

 
Log in to use your Facebook account with
San Diego CityBeat

Login With Facebook Account

Recent Activity on San Diego CityBeat
 
Home / Articles / Music / Soundwaves /  The Howls get rootsy on new album
. . . .
Wednesday, Jan 25, 2012

The Howls get rootsy on new album

But they struggle to harness what makes them 'them'

By Peter Holslin

The Howls 
Rocky Ground 

(self-released)

Well, spank that mechanical bull and call me Sally—San Diego is crawling with Americana bands! John Meeks and Brawley have that classic country twang. Little Hurricane and Low Volts throw down hardened bluesrock. The Silent Comedy captures the manic energy of a Pentecostal tent revival. The Tree Ring evokes the solitary beauty of a mountain landscape.

But we’re a long way from Nashville. Hell, we don’t even come close to Bakersfield or Laurel Canyon. While those locales can all claim to have a distinct “sound,” San Diego is more like a Boot World store, with some bands trying on a bunch of different styles, taking what fits and declaring themselves rootsy.

That’s the case with The Howls on their new album, Rocky Ground. With the full-bodied alt-country of “Weight,” they sound like Wilco. On the heady “Vacation,” they could be mistaken for late-’70s-era Jackson Browne. The title track’s perfunctory barroom honky-tonk, meanwhile, could’ve been recorded by any forgettable bar band that recently passed through the South.

The Howls hit on a sound of their own, however, when they crank up the reverb, slow the tempo to a dreamy pace and let singer-guitarist John Cooper stretch his vocal range. On album centerpiece “All,” Cooper lets out striking falsetto howls as the band builds a crescendo of U2-style arena-rock. He uses the same vocal technique (which perhaps explains the band’s name) on closer “Come Around,” a ghostly tune with a poppy hook that lingers like a picturesque sunset.

Still, even the album’s stronger tracks suffer from clichéd lyrical themes. Indeed, while bands like The War on Drugs infuse roots music with new ideas, The Howls mainly just borrow from their elders. If they can eventually harness what makes them them, they’ll have more to offer than mere fool’s gold.


The Howls play with Jesse LaMonaca and The Dime Novels, Family Wagon and Old Tiger at The Casbah on Friday, Jan. 27.




 
 
 
 
 
 
Close
Close
Close