City Club is the album many fans of The Growlers have both craved and feared. Can the dreaded transition from surf rock to synths ever be a success? Will they lose their endearing likeability?
The nostalgic sensibilities and crisp sound of this new record might have something to do with the frontman of a little-known rock band from the Big Apple. Produced by Julian Casablancas and released on his own label Cult Records, it is a challenge not to compare the latest effort from the ‘beach goth’ pioneers to The Strokes’ back catalogue of indie classics. However, The Growlers haven’t completely surrendered themselves to new wave production. Vocalist Brooks Nielsen once said that their goal was to “just make pretty music”, and City Club is a sophisticated development in their distinct, retro sound.
City Club is certainly The Growlers’ most accessible album. As the beat-driven love child of Californian grunge and slick NYC, it may disappoint fans of the raw and affecting ‘One Million Lovers.’ The Cali rockers first dipped their toes in funky waters on 2014’s Chinese Fountain, and City Club offers this groovy sound on title track ‘City Club’ and ‘I’ll Be Around.’
Thankfully, the group never let things get too clean and polished. As City Club progresses, synths are used in harmony with twinkly guitars to create an experimental sound that still distinctly belongs to The Growlers. Nielsen’s signature husk is instantly identifiable and tracks such as ‘Vacant Lot’ are deliciously dark and despondent. The Growlers’ desire to break free from the DIY connotations of their ‘beach goth’ label is clear. While they have always embraced this fuzzy, scuzzy identity, City Club is an album created by maturing musical minds.