It was the winter of 2008. I was sitting at my computer browsing myspace and chatting on AIM, like many other teenagers of the time. A friend of mine was trying to get me to listen to this new band called "The Growlers" so naturally, I checked them out. Their profile picture was almost as visually unintelligible, I would come to find, as their lyrics; cut outs of men and women in sepia-tone and black and white, antiquated pictures huddled in front of the band leering in the background. I scrolled down their myspace page listening to Someone Junior for the first time.
The beginning of their bio read,
"The growlers are a rock and pop group formed in long beach California in 2006 who are yet to became one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed bands in the history of popular music. During their years of stardom yet to come, the band consists of..."
"Pretty bold stuff." Was my initial response after finishing reading their bio. Their music had it's appeals but failed to make much of an impression on me at first; I was in a fervor over The Doors at the time, so the sound wasn't too different from my tastes. It would be a week or two before I found myself finally relenting to the chorus of Someone Junior all the while, being badgered daily by my friend to, "Listen to The Growlers damnit!"
"My name is Someone Junior, Who is my dad? Mama is Catherine Anne hoover and she's all that"
At the time, the lyrics weren't google-able, so the line after, "who's my dad?" was always improvised on my part; with, "Ah-lopta-likta candy-man roper, but she know!" followed by the reverbed-out, cult-like chant of, "Ah-ah, ah-ah, omphg!" The Growlers had won me over; with songs like Acid Rain and Empty Bones, their bio seemed much less pretentious and far more prophetic. I was beginning to really like The Growlers and when I told my friend this, their response was, "You finally started listening to them?"
So time went on, I had no money to pick up their first album so I settled for listening to the few songs their myspace music player provided me with. Eventually, the band began to interchange the original selection with newer songs but the more songs I heard from them the less impressed I began to feel. The mystic river sounds of The Growlers had suddenly ebbed into a stagnant pool of waning mystery. I felt like maybe I was wrong, maybe I hadn't been listening right; so I listened and listened again but still, the river slowed. Time passed and suddenly the words of their bio were beginning to ring quite true. People around me were hearing of The Growlers and when everyone began to sing their praises, I sang too but not as loudly; I really only liked three or four of their songs, so I never bothered to risk the hazard of posing as an outright Growlers fan.
"Their clothes, style and statements have made them trend-setters. While their growing social awareness saw their influence extend into the social and cultural revolutions."
The local rock scene of LA has been greatly influenced by The Growlers over the last couple of years. Every surf/psychedelic/garage rock band have tried tirelessly to emulate the sound and energy of The Growlers while also trying their hardest to be original about it. Go out anywhere, to any show in the scene, ask anyone about them and you'll find that The Growlers are at the pinnacle in LAs' surf/psychedelic/garage rock hierarchy. However, the praise showered upon The Growlers in the past is being replaced with discontent over the fact that their music sounds almost identically the same as it did three years ago. The band have, likely, become more competent musicians during this time but their sound has become rather redundant and among their repertoire of repetitively styled songs, is a small selection of numbers that sound strangely familiar to an iconic rock band from the 1960's.
In the small breaks from their interminably safe sound, The Growlers have tried with relative success to emulate a band that must have, evidently, held a great influence over them; The Doors. With songs like Conquered Sun, where the entire band, including the vocals, take part in a mimicry of bearded-Jim era Doors music. Brooks vocals stay true to his timbre but the lyrical content sways heavily toward the poeticism of Morrison's lyricism, albeit more contrived on Brookes' end. The song Oh, Sweet Spirit is quick to remind the listener of The Doors My Wild Love and in the end, The Growlers full repertory feels like one predictably, long song with sections that vary in tempo and melody like that of The Doors' song The Soft Parade; only without the creative decadence. The Growlers have become an increasingly dull figure atop LA's local music scene even though much of their earlier work has retained enough influence to keep bored fans sentimental in the very least.
If The Growlers wish to break through the barrier from growingly kitschy, local idols to nation wide rock n' rollers, they desperately need to break out of their own musical barriers first and if it's to be achieved, it's going to take a lot of experimentation on their part. Their musical aptitudes have undoubtedly risen but they need to focus on throwing their fans for more loops, keeping them on their toes with sounds that not even fawning locals can imitate. Hopefully sometime within the next year or so, The Growlers can deliver a reminder as to why the rockers of East LA, surfers from the dirty beaches of Southern California and everyone in between, excitedly find themselves packed into hot warehouses, blaring with the music that intends to make them dance on fire.
So here's to 2013 old chaps, here's to being slain by the charm of The Growlers all over again; if the world doesn't explode before you guys get the chance to rise from your trend-setting slouch.
Written By: David Corraliza