The Growlers Have a Chinese Fountain

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The Growlers sound retro but their choice of eras for “Chinese Fountain” is somewhat surprising—a little like when the Stones put out Emotional Rescue.  It plays with disco while still having real lyrics and a sound rooted in the 60s. Disco, to me, is like eating tinfoil, not a good experience.  But, just as with Emotional Rescue all those years ago, I like this flirtation with the mirror ball. The Growlers pull it off well in this instance. The rest of the album, though, is that surfer-inflected sound they’ve become known for, one they almost perfected on 2013’s Hung at Heart.

“The Internet is Bigger Than Jesus and John Lennon”

Even the ironically disco-toned “Chinese Fountain” has excellent lyrics and that’s one of the most compelling features of The Growlers. In “The Attitude of a Goth Bikini: The Growlers” we compared Brooks Nielsen’s voice to that of Phil Ochs and I think the comparison holds up, though we are not sure if they are directly influenced by Ochs.  They have some of his sound and they also have the songwriting skills of—if not Phil Ochs—a very good band:

“Is techno so shitty, even disco seems punk
Like the water so filthy, it’s no wonder why we’re drunk
Every little kid wants a computer in his pocket
The trophies on the mantels of the digital profits
The Internet is bigger than Jesus and John Lennon
And nobody wants to know where we’re heading.”

Goth-Bikini Surfer Music

If lyrics aren’t your thing then the sound may win you over anyway. Their sound has developed into that unique Goth-bikini surfer music we referenced in our earlier review so that songs like “Big Toe” and “Magnificent Sadness” all sound like they come from swaying Surfer-Green Strats. There are exceptions of course, with “Going Gets Tough” being reminiscent of David Lindley and “Rare Hearts” sounding like Buddy Holly.

Put it all together and you have a contemporary album that could have been released way back in the 60s.  I’d venture that if it had been it would be a classic by now, guaranteed a cult following at least.  Hopefully some of us older folks will give them enough of a chance to appreciate influences ranging from the sound of California beaches to  Lubbock and beyond—completed by some time travel.




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