Although the title of Minneapolis quintet Howler’s debut full-length suggests weary resignation, America Give Up practically glows with youthful energy. Frontman and songwriter Jordan Gatesmith hasn’t even turned 20 yet, and America steamrolls through its 32 minutes with a brash and undeniably exhilarating vitality. Howler’s buzz-creating EP from 2011, This One’s Different, created a huge wave of next-big-thingitude in England, where raves from NME led to a tour slot opening for The Vaccines and a deal with legendary U.K. label Rough Trade. Which almost certainly means a backlash is coming in six months or so, but until then (and even afterwards) America has plenty worth enjoying.
Comparisons to The Strokes have been flung at Howler repeatedly, enthusiastically, and accurately, though it’s fair to note that Howler reaches deeper into the past for its influences, snaring the good bits of high-energy punk guitar combos like The Jesus & Mary Chain and The Buzzcocks, and ultimately drawing from the old-school rock rebels of the ’50s. Which is ultimately both the most endearing thing about Howler and the precisely defined shape of the space it’s boxed itself into. The surf-punky “Beach Sluts” could be a lost Ramones B-side, both for its rough-edged, infectious garage-rock enthusiasm and its inescapable shallowness.
If the members of Howler seem less interested in breaking out of that mold than enthusiastically reveling in it, who can blame them? They’re young, and they have plenty of time to develop a voice that transcends as well as recapitulates their influences. Whether they can do that is a question for the band’s second album—America Give Up is about woo-oo-oo choruses and fuzz-laden, spiky guitar chords, and there’s nothing wrong with that.