Jordan Gatesmith croons, “I don’t want to be rich, or famous no more,” in “Here’s The Itch That Creeps Through My Skull.” The Smiths-inspired ditty hails from Howler’s second studio album, World of Joy with Rough Trade Records.
The indie-rock group from Minneapolis, Minn. is composed of Gatesmith on lead guitar and vocals, Ian Nygaard on guitar, Max Petrek on bass, and new addition Rory MacMurdo replacing Brent Mayes on drums.
World of Joy is more poppy than their previous album, America Give Up, but still sports their characteristic 1960s-inspired, reverb-drenched, punk-pop sound. It’s a fun, silly punk album with smatterings of outright pop songs, attempts at blues, psychedelics, and noise, and one track inspired by both the Smiths and Prince’s “Purple Rain.”
World of Joy is a mixed bag, but it’s a great time.
The album is self-referential, with a track about Nygaard getting sick and going to the hospital on almost every tour (“Drip”) and one inspired by a bar, album opener “Al’s Coral.” One of the first songs written for the album, it’s Howler’s crack at its own dive bar song. With a cowbell tap intro, “Al’s Coral” has a classic American rock sensibility and a cock-rock vibe borrowed from Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town.”
The actual Al’s Corral that inspired the fun, danceable track is a decked-out American dive bar the foursome visited in St. Paul, Minn. that featured motorcycles, leather jackets, and Thin Lizzy playing on the jukebox. The song is evocative of that spirit, with Gatesmith chanting, “Freedom is never free, and that’s a guarantee,” over playful guitar picks and ringing cymbals.
Title track “World of Joy” is Howler’s rendition of psychedelic-noise music. In a spark of genius from Gatesmith and Nygaard, the members of Howler switched instruments; Gates plays drums and Nygarrd is on sitar. (Granted, it’s nearly impossible to tell that it’s a sitar because it’s been put through a number of noise pedals.) High-pitched vocals stand out from those on the rest of the album, repeating, “World of joy,” and the additional effects are evident, but the track never loses its fast, punk pace.
World of Joy serves as a tribute to the foursome’s love of rock-n-roll music that would play from a jukebox in a beer-addled, liquor-sloppy Minneapolis bar like The Replacements, The Smiths, and of course, Thin Lizzy.
Goofy track “Don’t Wanna”‘s refrain of, “Well you don’t have to be a punk if you don’t want to/You don’t even have to date boys if you don’t want to/You don’t have to be fooled twice if you don’t want to/You don’t have to listen to me if you don’t want to,” is where Howler shows its hand.
The track is a parody song of sorts, calling upon the tradition of the classic punk, you-don’t-have-to and the-system-can-suck-it songs. ”Don’t Wanna” is tongue-in-cheek, funny, and catchy as all get out with its poppy guitar riff and plugging rhythmic line.
World of Joy stays true to its name—it’s a pleasurable hodge-podge of genres, tones, experiments, and levels of sincerity that brings both glee and ennui from every angle.
Howler- World of Joy tracklist:
- “Al’s Coral”
- “Don’t Wanna”
- “Yacht Boys”
- “In the Red”
- “World of Joy”
- “Here’s the Itch that Creeps Through My Skull”
- “Aphorismic Wasteland Blues”