Currywurds - Devourable Content
August 2018

Where To Start With The Growlers If You‘re Not Goth And You Prefer Mountains Over The Beach

Mackenzie Patel
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How to listen to cannibal beats and sea lion goth blues in khakis.
With Beach Goth 2018 happening last weekend, it’s easy to believe every Growlers fan has eyeliner dripping into their irises and butt cracks sticking together with sand. The Growlers have been hosting this festival since 2012 in Los Angeles, and while it’s known for dripping silver, more black lipstick than contraception, and happy goths, the lineup this year included names more obscure than Gucci Mane (who performed in 2016). 
But who are The Growlers, besides festival organizers and dads with cool hair? Their spiderwebs-in-the-basement sound has evolved from twangy to pop, and I confused them with Floridian band, Grizfolk, for ages.  For those who only wear eye makeup for slight accentuation and dress like moms, The Growlers are intimidating and after-hours razzmatazz. Have you seen their iconic suits? It’s like the band subsumed themselves from the grave to play a Día de Los Muertos gig. They’ve released seven albums in eight years, and with 95 songs in their discography, it’s confusing to know where to begin (especially since starting with Dope on a Rope is a total cop out). 
The Growlers are broken into three chronological phases: graveyard jams, love, and disillusioned nightclubs. However, listening to them in a different order - love, nightclubs, bones - helps the casual (or actively opposed) streamer get into their grisly, Western style.
The “sweetest” albums of the bunch, Hung at Heart, Gilded Pleasures, and Chinese Fountain are the middle children of The Growlers. Underrated, easy to eat, and lovey rather than hardcore Goth. Nothing’s hard about One Million Lovers or Rare Hearts – ever since The Beatles’ Love Me Do, people have been conditioned to blandly eat love songs. If you’re unsure about Beach Goth, start with these tracks and albums – it’s like eating Chicken Tikka Masala and thinking you’re well-versed in curry dishes. In addition to these stock songs, the middle albums also have stranger songs to get the listener acclimated to The Growlers’ true aura: No Need for Eyes, Dogheart II, and Ol’ Rat Face. Words and album art aside, these middle songs are also orchestrated – and delivered – differently. More subdued, less blood-in-your-mouth. Less macabre and more curled up in bed with a lover or a memory of one. The vocals are still gravely, but they’re also gentle – just listen to Pet Shop Eyes: it’s a retro 60s ballad that Summer Salt or The Nude Party could’ve sampled from. 
“You look so pretty, it’s sad,” sings leadman Brooks Nielsen.

Brooks yelps, I swoon, and I feel like a psuedogoth while wearing kids-size Timberlands. There’s nothing decaying or rotting – only a slowed-down two step and plaid memories. However, these sweet n’ lows are tempered with country lines like “How did it turn into more drinking, sinking” from Burden From The Captain or “She’s a lost cause, so count your losses” from Big Toe.

Chinese Fountain, the titular song and album, foreshadowed the direction of the following Growlers album, City Club. Hazy vocals, faster beats, and a ditching of bluegrass guitar; the boys moved to the big city, although still teenagers in their head. They took sandpaper to their own sound, and for this reason, Chinese Fountain is the best beginning album for a Growlers virgin. You might get a little fucked up by “Trouble happens to the rich and the poor, to the prude or the downright whore,” but it prepares you for their disillusioned nightclub era.
Even The Growlers went through a “The Weeknd” phase -- open the peeled door onto cocaine, dope on ropes, shaking down, up, and pretty much everywhere. Their latest two albums are the most pop and modern rock, with beats that are more risqué than Halloween horror. 
After easing yourself into a Growler pit on Chinese Fountain ropes, the listener is ready to be eaten. The meat of the Growlers - the foundation for their present fame - is found in City Club, the all-hits album that is reminiscent of the Arctic Monkeys’ AM. Although I find this the easiest album to digest (and the most danceable), the 2016 band wagoner is left with nothing but impressions of LA disillusionment, seediness, and maturity. City Club is a masterpiece, and even the gal dedicated to Tommy Hilfiger would be into it. If you want the greatest hits without the backstory, this album is for you – but if you’re not a wet blanket, save this dessert for second.  Sure, there’s love and angst and drinking, but the way they’re delivered feels like a bass-heavy sermon. Absorb I’ll Be Around, Night Ride, and The Daisy Chain like some intravenous cure, and then you’ll be ready for Casual Acquaintances (released July 27th, 2018).  
And now for the weirdos, for the albums prized by people who buy Beach Goth tickets five years in a row and have stock in Hot Topic. Save listening to these lizard tunes for when you own a leather jacket and think Night Ride is too mainstream. 

Their first album, Are You In Or Out, sounds more at home in a cabin somewhere in North Carolina than an LA beach. For fuck’s sake, one of their songs is called Heehaw Stomp. You can count on the guitar to lay twang at your feet and for your inner country self to jig. Tracks like Red Tide and Old Cold River slither like snakes and don’t exclude listeners who are unfamiliar with The Cure or Joy Division. Out of 10, the ease of listening is definitely a 5 or 6 (Wet Dreams knocked off a few points).
Hot Tropics requires more grit and dedication to black Doc Martens; after all, the opening song is called Graveyard’s Full. There’s some screams, some desert angst, the works. This album is palatable after multiple exposures to The Growlers – I feel sunburned just listening to it. Brooks’ voice is especially choked with dust or ash or whatever brand of Kat Von D makeup he uses (in a great way) – and it works after you’re used to lyrics like “I’ve just been thinking about my will.” Save this music for last – there’s no use skipping track after track simply because you’re not seasoned.
The Growlers love a change in tempo, and it has the intended effect: a roller coaster drop to the stomach and instant attention. Certain qualities like that – and Nielsen’s voice dipping between country and gravel – are constant across the years. Even if the listener has a Lacoste closet and fruity IPA fridge, The Growlers adjustment curve isn’t that steep.

Don’t worry - soon you’ll be bringing skeletons to bed too.