HOWLER CARDIFF BUFFALO BAR
Dependant on your point of view Howler are either the potential saviours of white indie-rock or over hyped wannabes trading off the used riffs of glorious bands past. So which is correct? Well in truth both views hold some water.
They arrive on a Tsunami of publicity, having been championed long and hard by the NME (# 1 in the 25 New Acts you need to hear in 2012) and of late have strayed onto the radar of more mainstream publications like the Guardian and the Sun. Add to that the urban myth that their drummer is the son of Prince (the singer, not Charles) and you have a perfect storm on which they should be swept to imminent world domination.
The Buffalo Bar is a pretty small venue (capacity 200), but this only added to the feeling of intimacy of seeing them up close and personal before they are lost forever to the world of arena tours. Surprisingly the audience wasnt just made up of teenagers and students and there was a fair smattering of middle aged people checking out the young upstarts.
They dress in the obligatory skinny jeans, tees and Converse high-tops and visually have more than a touch of early Strokes about them. But the acid test is surely how they sound. After locating renegade bass player France Camp, who seemed reticent to leave the bar/female fans, the bands proceed to blast through the set in little over 35 minutes. Having heard their debut EP and album I pretty much knew what to expect, that is, a cross between the aforementioned Strokes, the Vaccines, New Order, the Libertines and even occasionally the Jesus and Mary Chain.
Without doubt lead singer Jordan Gatesmith is the centre of attention with his rather geeky look of part Johnny Borrell, part Joey Ramone. But he seems to revel in his role, having a certain immature arrogance to his demeanour. The tracks come thick and fast For All Concern, You Like White Women, I Like Cigarettes, Back to the Grave, Back of the Neck and Too Much Blood. Its just a shame they chose to include three songs from the EP on their debut long player, thereby making their fairly meagre library of available tracks even smaller.
Musically they are more than competent musicians, tight and well drilled and confident enough to swap instruments for certain numbers. I was impressed by Max Petrek whose swirling keyboards meant the songs, if only slightly, deviated from the normal guitar driven format. Band members liberally chugged from Jack Daniels and by enlarge rand the gambit of rock attitude and posturing. The remainder of their set came in a welter of well constructed, if not hugely original, rock based songs. Black Lagoon, America, Beach Sluts, This Ones Different and their best number I Told You Once.
And just for the record, their drummer didnt wear purple, have Slave written on his cheek or refer to himself at the Artist formerly known as Brent Mayes. So the jurys still out as to whether he was actually fathered by Minneapolis favourite son!