Saturday, 21 July 2012


          Sometimes it seems like there’s nothing new any more. Well musically at least. Sound familiar ? Whilst I get out to as many gigs as I can it’s sometimes difficult when you live in a place that’s a bit off the radar for most bands and the ones who do pitch up tend to be of the ‘previously a member of….’ variety and although that often ends up as a great night out hearing old favourites I yearn for something new, someone who plays stuff I’ve never heard of and who isn’t closer to my age (or older) than I’d care to admit.

          So when the opportunity arose this week to go and see a band who I hadn’t heard (and had barely heard of), for £8, in a small venue, I jumped at the chance. I know now that there’s been a bit of a buzz about them since the end of last year, but I’m obviously moving in the wrong circles and hadn’t caught it. I thought about calling them up on Spotify or YouTube to see if they would justify the money but then I had one of those ’moments’ – a moment that said ‘you always used to go and see bands on spec, see what happened and either be really blown away or write it off as a failed experiment – so why not take the same approach now?’. There’s a part of me that loves the internet and another part that hates the fact it makes random discovery in the ‘real’ world nearly impossible – There’s so much easy research to be done its quite possible to get bored with a band before they release a single official song. For the same reason I’m not keen on Spotify (other music streaming is also available…) because unlike the radio you sort of have to know what you want to hear first and then be guided by the ‘you may also like…’ selections – it starts to become self-limiting. The radio, whilst ever more predictable still throws up those things that you would otherwise have never found, the random, the arcane, the mistaken and so on. I’ve never liked following other people’s maps – sometimes getting lost means you find the most wonderful places that you just can’t see from the main road.

          Anyway, the band in question was Howler – a just-out-of-their-teens American band from Minnesota. The crowd numbered less than a hundred and were barely enough to make even the smallish venue look like it had anything on. But they were good ! The music was a mixture – a bit of JAMC, a bit of lo-fi surf guitar, some obvious Velvets influence, a touch of the Stooges, maybe even the ghost of Lux Interior in there somewhere - pure pop punk – you get the picture. But what really made them stand out was that they were no different from the audience and they made no attempt to be – well, apart from us three slightly older ones at the back that is….

          They also had the advantage over most US pop/punk bands of their age in that it was immediately obvious that they realised punk didn’t start with Green Day.

          The fact that the room was half empty was turned to their advantage as they hammered out the first verse of Beach Sluts and then ground to a halt due to the ever popular technical fault – it’s a long while since I’ve seen a band just chat with / chat up the audience collectively and in some cases individually. Then when everything was ready to roll the drummer went AWOL so the singer Jordan Gatesmith commandeered the kit and they launched into a fuzzy surf instrumental type filler until the drummer wandered back onstage. The apparent shambolic start was rendered void by the subsequent tight and thoroughly buzzing set which consisted of exactly the songs on the first album ‘America Give Up’ and no more – it wasn’t churlishness, you just got the impression that they simply had no more songs.

          During the briefest of sets they had half the audience up on stage (much to the security’s disapproval), Ian Nygaard, the floppy fringed Young Edwyn Collins lookalike guitarist wandered off into the front rows still playing and the band did that most American of things of managing to swear healthily whilst still referring to everyone as ‘sir’ ! So a good night and a healthy smile across everyone’s face as they left. As far as bands go I hope that Howler get a good run – they deserve it for trekking from America to god forsaken places like this apart from anything else. They were the current equivalent of four blokes in a Transit making noise with attitude and for that, and for not aiming for TV reality show instant exsposure, is in itself worth celebrating.

          Check out the album America Give Up – whilst a bit cleaner and more poppy in sound than the live set it’s still one of my favourites of the year. Don’t be fooled by the polish they’ve been given, corporate rock whores they weren’t. But catch them live if you can – if the gig I saw is anything to go by then you won’t get the chance to see them for under a tenner again. Oh and if that wasn’t enough apparently the next album is going to sound like The Yardbirds and Aftermath period Stones mixed in with some Dion – what’s not to like ?

          And as a taster…. keeping it under 3 minutes....

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