Music Review: City Club by The Growlers (2016)

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Release: 30 September 2016

The death of the beach goth has arrived. A few years ago I would have been mortified at this prospect. The Growlers without their beach goth sound!?! For me that always seemed to be what made them so unique, and of course Chinese Fountain was a big step away from their signature sound. The Growlers legacy is saved by releasing a phenomenal album that still sound clearly like them. It is more polished and groovy than previous releases, and while on first listen this seems to spell doom, by the end you won’t mind. From start to finish, City Club is solid.

This newest release started its production in worrying fashion; a reshuffling of band member and production by The Strokes own Julian Casablancas, left no doubt that this would be a new direction. Thankfully Julian Casablancas is incredibly good at producing some infectious music. Throughout the album anyone familiar with Julian can feel his influence, particulary on “Too Many Times” on which he sings for a bit. The Growlers singer Brooks Nielson has a unique voice and this helps to preserve quite a bit of The Growlers sound. Still there isn’t quite enough of the old Growlers their to retain the moniker “beach goth”, maybe the song “Vacant Lot” preserves this, but it is the last vestige.

Taken on it’s own, without regard to the past, the album is great. It drags a bit near the end, though the songs aren’t particularly bad. By the time you reach half way you’ve passed most of the best tracks and the later ones sound a bit same-y. It takes the Julian infused “Too Many Times” to really breathe life into the tail end. While that seems like a problem it is my biggest complaint. Any album where the only real complaint is “the last few songs are very good but a bit similar to the first few”, sounds like a good album to me.

The Tracks:

“City Club” – The first single and title track, this was my first glimpse at the new Growlers. It’s a good intro as it highlights the new sound, and breaks into a more familiar Growlers’ chorus. It’s a sort of melding of the old and new. Overall a good start.

“I’ll Be Around” – This was  a track that took awhile to really appreciate. It is catchy and strong. The chorus featuring a give and take between the back-up vocals and Brooks is a nice touch that gives the track a unique sound.

“Vacant Lot” – Probably the closest they come to the classic beach goth sound.  It’s memorable and dark, but still fun. Early on I felt this would be the albums peak, but subsequent listens would leave another my favorite

“Night Ride” – A well titled track which seems to fit the feeling it evokes. It’s smooth and funky and fits quite well in this collection of tracks, but might seem quite out of place on past albums.

“When You Were Made” – My personal favorite on the album. It is well written and catchy, but far from their old style. Though I didn’t want to like the departure in style, I was surprised as this quickly became my favorite Growlers’ track.

“Too Many Times” – Probably the least Growlers-ish track and the most Casablancas-ish. It even features Julian’s vocals. It is cool track that any Growlers and Strokes fan will love, though anyone who isn’t happy with the new style probably won’t care for this one.

The whole album is great, not really a bad track, but several unmemorable ones. Though I worried about the change of styles, they made a believer out of me. I don’t want them to stagnate so I understand the need to reinvent themselves. I am happy that this reinvention went so well. I’d say 4 out 5 stars.

 

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