Want to know what’s weighing on JC Brooks’ mind? The cover of Howl, his third record with the Uptown Sound, tells the tale. It’s in his distant-but-pensive stare and the warm spotlight that shines over his face. Howl, in the simplest terms, is a rebound record, one that finds the singer mourning the end of a fractured relationship but also celebrating his return to the wild.
That attitude prevails on Howl, which takes a turn away from the high-octane, get-up-and-go energy of its 2011 predecessor, Want More. The record maintains the band’s attuned ear for retro fun, but the funky energy and swagger that marked past records is largely replaced with relaxed ’60s and ’70s soul, new wave catchiness, and even indie rock ambiance. The album’s title track commences on a jaunty dance rock note, but much of what follows finds the band settling into an equally edgy but more measured place.
“Married For A Week” is a love-scorn revenge fantasy, bopping along with sultry panache as Brooks asserts his freedom to play the field (“Now I fool around with every stranger you know”), while “Security” shoulders the burden of the painful push and pull of a relationship (“You need security / I need assurances”). It’s an album with an irritable itch, and the band scratches it raw.
Other tracks find the band in more straightforward pop rock territory. “Not Alone” drives forward at mid-tempo with new wave flare, while “Control” swims in a sea of cranky reverb as Brooks continues to weather his emotional storm (“I’m controlled by your love/ And your love is never enough”). There’s a sense listening to Howl that its creation might have stung a bit, but in the end, the band’s pain proves to be the listener’s pleasure.
Essential Tracks: “Married For A Week”, “Control”