Fresh-faced and ingratiating, indie-rock newcomer Howler hails from the ’80s punk-rock hotbed of Minneapolis. But there is little evidence that frontman Jordan Gatesmith cut his teeth on legendary local fare such as the Replacements and Husker Du. Instead, Howler uncannily channels millennial-era Strokes at its most CBGB-obsessed, bringing to bear all of the singalong choruses, simple backbeats and pouting vocal delivery that first elevated that band to stardom. In this regard, Howler’s handsomely recorded debut, “America Give Up,” occasionally feels like a pastiche of a pastiche, one heavy on hooks and attitude but a little light on substance and originality. That said: It’s only rock-and-roll, and Gatesmith is only 19.
Album opener “Beach Sluts” weds a slow-burning riff to a propulsive stop-start Cal-punk beat reminiscent of vintage Descendents. The song’s title and accompanying reports of “drinking in the afternoon” are characteristic of the group’s genially delinquent preoccupations. The driving “This One’s Different” exemplifies Howler’s inarguable capacity for mainlining a catchy melody at a frantic tempo, but it fails to live up to the promise of its title — the song is interchangeable with many tracks on the record. However, exciting hints about where the band may evolve are in evidence on “Too Much Blood,” a midtempo drone that suggests someone poured a little “Disintegration”-era Cure into the musicians’ espresso.
“America Give Up” is reminiscent of Weezer’s 1994 debut album — an energetic and fully formed power-pop record made more impressive by the band’s youth. It’s a powerful start. But one hopes that this manifestly proficient band might embark upon deeper, riskier territory, as Weezer did with its legendary sophomore effort, “Pinkerton.”
Howler performs at the Red Palace on April 13.
“Beach Sluts,” “Too Much Blood”