Just a couple months after Howler’s debut America Give Up shocked and awed snotty rock ‘n’ roll fans across the U.S. and U.K., frontman Jordan Gatesmith told us that the songs he was writing for Howler’s next album would take a ‘60s pop twist. The Minnesota-based four-piece’s first album was essentially a Gatesmith solo project written in the 19-year-old’s parents’ basement. Two years later, however, Howler’s sophomore effort, World Of Joy, represents a much more cohesive work, written together as a band.
And those ‘60s songs Gatesmith mentioned two years ago somehow turned into a weird amalgamation of musical influences from Minneapolis in the ‘80s. There’s Hüsker Dü heaviness on the title track, an ominous rocker laced with fuzzed-out sitar sounds. Lead single “Indictment” is reminiscent of Hootenanny-era Replacements, with its tempo changes and song structure. “Al’s Corral” pays homage to a St. Paul dive bar, evoking the jukebox sounds and blue-collar ethos of the era and locale. And even the most melodic song on World Of Joy, the arpeggiated “Don’t Wanna,” assesses the Minnesota musical mythology, according to Gatesmith.
Half of the tracks on World Of Joy don’t even crack three minutes. It certainly validates the album’s garage-punk ethos, but at the same time, it barely gives Howler enough time to prove itself on its second album.