There is something instantly likable about The Growlers new album Guilded Pleasures. On a surface listen it sounds groovy as hell. The recordings are pleasurably low fi, the songs are catchy and cool, and the writing is funny and alarming. Vocalist Brooks Nielsen spins a doped up dream of Laurel Canyon heaven which treads the same apocalyptic territory as Father John Misty.
Things kick off in with the pulped out “Dogheart II” with Nielsen expounding on the superficialities of youth and sex, all the while being grimly aware of the stigma of growing old. Midway through the record some darker material crops up starting with the carnival echo of “Ol’ Rat Face”. The clear disdain for life continues with “Change in your Veins” which bops along to a nightmare riff laced with bitter inner dialogue and middle-eastern fuzz. It’s pretty damn catchy and will probably make Queens of the Stone Age jealous when they hear it.
During the second half of the album some of the more derivative musical ideas begin to wear thin. “Pretend I’m Gay” is pretty droning and not nearly as captivating as the psychotic word play of the previous two tracks. There are points, as in the case of track two, where you can pick out a particular riff that has been lifted from an old hit song and this dampers the striking originality of the songwriting.
These boys have been doing this since 2006 and obviously have their act together. Their press materials and overall presentation is exactly as sleazy as it needs to be and the production on the album is fried to perfection. They are not missing originality either. Perhaps just a little nudge to get them outside their comfort zone is all it would take to get the real party started.