A band’s second album is always seen as the hard one. They want to develop sound and style without distancing themselves too far from their debut. Minneapolis four-piece Howler released their debut album ‘America Give Up’ just over two years ago so the announcement of the follow up ‘World of Joy’ back in January was sure to make fans eager to hear new, fresh Howler.
You can’t go much wrong with opening a record with a cowbell. Said to be inspired by Thin Lizzy’s ‘Jailbreak’, ‘Al’s Corral’ has overlooked Lizzy’s untroubled style to keep the driving force of Howler in check with forceful guitars and crashing cymbals. Up next is the short and sweet ‘Drip’. Just exceeding the 2 minute mark, ‘Drip’ has got even more energetic and strenuous than before despite being centred around guitarist Ian Nygaard’s frequent hospital trips while on tour.
Contrasting with lyrics of rebelling and ignoring conformity – “you don’t have to be listen to The Smiths if don’t want to” – ‘Don’t Wanna’ boasts playful riffs laden with reverb and tenderly sung vocals that can’t help but show a more delicate, heartfelt side to Howler. Instantly returning back to the boisterous uproar we were expecting, ‘Yacht Boys’ is the track to turn to when in need of an instant boost. ‘In The Red’ prolongs the loud-is-best theme but keeping it more in tune with that of a pop song – it sounds like it’s single and radio-play worthy with the reckless guitars and brash vocals taking over.
Title track ‘World of Joy’ is the last thing you would expect with its psychedelic nature. It’s got hazy bass lines, fast-paced vocals and the swap of a guitar for a sitar makes it something special. The wall of noise sounds controlled yet still chaotic making it still holding Howler’s mark. ‘Louise’ is next up and returns to the pop song style of ‘In The Red’. Sincerely sung vocals have been accompanied with the familiar Howler drums and lively guitars and bass but the break up in the middle make it a love song disguised as a good old rock song.
Taking you back to the era of The Smiths is ‘Here’s The Itch That Creeps Through My Skull’ with the Johnny Marr-esque riffs and reflective, honest lines like “I don’t want to be rich, or famous no more” that can only remind you of Morrissey. It’s one of the few soothing tracks on the album showing how Howler are able to become more unhurried making it clear they’re not all about sticking to one genre or label.
Soon enough, the tempo picks back up for ‘Indictment’. Cries of “yee-haw” at the beginning set the tone for the entire song – it’s all for fun. The blues breakdown in the middle finalises the entertaining mood of the track but then quickly returns back to the familiar. Be ready to join in with the “oohs” even during the first listen, it’s one of those you want to sing along with instantly. Ending things off on a bright, cheerful note is ‘Aphorismic Wasteland Blues’ with its jangly surf riffs. It drifts towards being serious with the outcry of “I wouldn’t wish this upon anybody else” but the upbeat 50s accompaniment completely takes over it ensuring the record ends on a high.
You can’t deny Howler have pulled off the whole second album. They’ve distanced themselves from The Strokes and Vaccines comparisons they continuously received with the last record and made themselves recognisable solely for being Howler. Also, the clear insight to their inspiration with a mixture of bands including Thin Lizzy, The Smiths, KISS, The Stooges and The Replacements have made it so much more personal. All that’s left to say is don’t make us wait too long for some more material Howler.