February 12, 2009

Test Spin: Howlies

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Trippin’ with Howlies is a legitimate trip through rock ’n roll time. The album starts with “Sea Level,” a subdued ’70s punk-esque song, continues on into “Smoke,” a ’60s Beatles-in-India type track and then proceeds into “Howlies Sound,” a ’50s rock meets doo-wop song with the added bonus of a Chuck Berry-like guitar solo. Overall, the album reeks of imitation from such famed acts as the Kinks, the Beach Boys, James Brown and the Ramones, to name a few.
But on this album the Atlanta bandmates are not just trippin’ through time: The psychedelic cover art and the incessant lyrical drug references are a reinforcement that the Howlies are truly just trippin’. With two leading vocalists (Aaron Wood and Justin Brooke), Howlies make it easy to jump from a Lennon-like singing of “So just come over, we can smoke” to the ’50s male-pop vocal whining of “I don’t appreciate the way he skews my chick with expensive trips and cocaine hits” or the rebel-not-quite-singing of “Gonna spend money, smoke and drink, gonna find a girl, do the natural thing.” Howlies successfully make drug references in all their ranging rock forms.
However, their lyrics can be more far-reaching than the usual rock ‘n’ roll sex and drugs clichés. On “Chimera,” the most modern of the Howlies tunes, an everyday singer-songwriters voice croons, “We are walking on a flowerbed of rhythm every time the sun shines.” It is this stylish lyricism and intelligent blending of older genres and rock styles that make Trippin’ with Howlies a very fun listen.