When Noel Gallagher told NME that “the future of the galaxy depends on… the Jagwar Ma record,” it would’ve been understandable if Gallagher’s hyperbole hurt more than helped the rising Australian trio. Thankfully, even Oasis-haters can find something to love in Howlin’, Jagwar Ma’s debut LP.
Howlin’ takes the psychedelia of their countrymen Tame Impala on a trip to Manchester, UK circa 1990. Fluorescent rhythms and floppy, drug-educed backbeats define “The Throw”, a revival of the iconic Madchester sound. Over nearly seven minutes, the neo-house juggernaut slowly builds to an exceptional fusion of guitar rock and dance music. Somewhere around the halfway mark, though, the guitars are pulled out from underneath, leaving you plummeting down a rabbit hole of trip-hop that many of us missed last time around. If we could bring Tony Wilson back to hear just one song, this would be it.
The heart of Howlin’ may lie in Manchester, but there’s a lot more going on here. Lead track “What Love” channels the repetitious drone-pop harmonies of Panda Bear coming down off a Rubber Soul binge. Six-and-a-half minute album centerpiece “Four” sounds like Disclosure, but only if they traded their ecstasy for acid. These cuts seethe with compulsive melodies and grit. On the other end of the spectrum, though, is “The Loneliness”, which is about as genre-pushing as the jingle in a toothpaste commercial, and “Come Save Me”, which sounds like a bad Stone Roses B-side.
These inconsistencies wind up making Howlin’ somewhat of a hit or miss affair. But the hits are so strong that you won’t mind trudging through a few missteps along the way. Jagwar Ma wouldn’t be the first number I’d call to save the galaxy, but they certainly occupy a promising space in it.
Essential Tracks: “The Throw”, “What Love”, and “Uncertainty”.