The phrase “burned out” has such bad connotations. When you consider the surfy, crunchy, entirely burned out party rock in the vein of The Growlers, that might just be something to aspire to. The So-Cal five-piece sound so comfortable being the stoned philosopher on Hung at Heart, hopping from party to party, delivering gems of lyrical wisdom in the midst of the thoroughly kicked out jams.
Hung at Heart seemed set to be The Growlers’ major breakthrough, but the intended stamp of approval from a big name producer didn’t turn out: according to the label, “indie Iron Chef Dan Auerbach had initially tried his hand in the kitchen, but… the dish ended up overcooked.” The band brought the recordings back home and finished the meal themselves, resulting in a crackling lo-fi groove akin to A Hundred Miles Off-era Walkmen.
While we’ll never know what Auerbach’s mix may have entailed, the resulting warmth fits Brooks Nielsen’s homespun adages, as on opening track “Someday”. Over Matt Taylor’s sparkling guitar and Scott Montoya’s shambling rhythm, he promises that he’ll be able to provide for his love, even if it takes as long as it would for a time to come “when tall boys turn into champagne / when bologna turns into steak.” The booted clop of “Living in a Memory” comes from a different party, but Anthony Perry’s galloping bass ties it all together. Nielsen follows with his plaintive request to “help me remember / that life’s worth living for,” bleeding in some sincerity amidst the fun.
Though much of the musical fun inherent in Hung at Heart comes easily, a few well-placed flourishes push out of complacency. The simplicity of loping bass and keyboard flutters on “One Million Lovers” battles with growing echo and outbursts of percussive ephemera. Falsetto backing vocals on “Pet Shop Eyes” complete the ’60s pop vibe, and the organ-heavy “It’s No Use” drifts occasionally into psychedelic red.
In every scenario, Nielsen delivers words of wisdom to the assembled onlookers without seeming to notice they’re looking.Whether they’re taking you to a rager at a beach house with the dance floor packed with revelers looking to hook up, or a crumbling studio apartment where a few scattered dudes settle in corners, The Growlers know how to deliver it precisely and then kick the scruff up a notch.
Essential Tracks: “Someday”, “Living in a Memory”, and “Pet Shop Eyes”