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Hear This Not That: The Wytches create a coherent album, The Growlers lose musical focus

On Friday, English rock band The Wytches released their second full-length album “All Your Happy Life,” (left) while California garage rockers The Growlers released their fifth album “City Club” (right). (Left: Courtesy of Heavenly Records, Right: Courtesy of Cult Records)

By Kun Yong (Sean) Lee

Oct. 2, 2016 9:02 p.m.

Music fans can find it hard to decide which albums to stream and which to skip, considering the surplus of new music released. Each week, A&E columnist Sean Lee will compare two newly released albums and recommend which one students should listen to. This week, Lee compares the youthful vigor of The Wytches’ latest album “All Your Happy Life” with that of The Growlers’ “City Club.”

California garage rockers The Growlers and English rock band The Wytches use their respective albums to keep rock ‘n’ roll relevant.

The Wytches’ second full-length album, “All Your Happy Life,” presents the youthful detachment of the English punk scene while paying homage to the shoegaze and California desert rock scenes of the ’90s. The Growlers’ fifth album, “City Club,” sticks to the band’s blueprint of glorified, hedonistic rock songs — a formula that, much like a party that lasts too long, is getting old. While both bands’ new Friday albums repackage older rock ‘n’ roll eras, The Wytches manage to create a coherent album while The Growlers clumsily flip flop between too many styles.

[Last week: Hear This Not That: Shawn Mendes versus Devendra Banhart]

“Intro,” the opener from “All Your Happy Life,” is merely a 25-second instrumental track laden with heavy organs. But this simple track introduces the wall of sound and reverb-heavy tone that become musical motifs for the rest of the album, instilling a sense of coherency.

The following song “C-Side” builds off the musical storm by introducing a heavily dissonant guitar track to a pipe organ. The song quickly dissolves into a lamenting love anthem typical of The Wytches when frontman Kristian Bell sings about a girl who thinks of him as a “dead end entirely.” Bell’s lovelorn lyrics become the eye of the storm to the chaotic instrumentation, a purposeful moment of clarity that is consistent throughout the rest of the album.

The standout track from this album – the closing track, “Home” – veers entirely from the noise-rock aesthetic of “All Your Happy Life” in favor of a straight-ahead acoustic rock song. It’s the perfect conclusion to the album, revealing that underneath the effect pedals and waves of reverb, The Wytches can still craft solid songs.

Unlike the unifying sound of the new Wytches album, The Growlers’ “City Club” showcases a band that has gotten lazy about creating a cohesive track listing.

Album opener and eponymous track “City Club” rehashes the same guitar tone, disco beats and ’80s synths present on its 2014 album “Chinese Fountain.” Whereas The Wytches found a way to turn old sounds and guitar effects into refreshing new songs, the Growlers sound as if they are running out of ideas.

The rest of “City Club” sounds like bar band covers of the band’s indie peers, veering from style to style with no sense of purpose. “I’ll Be Around” and “Night Ride” showcase frontman Brooks Neilsen drunkenly rambling about “neon prophecies” and “the morning sun” over instrumental demos from The Black Keys’ 2010 album “Brothers.” With its angled guitar riffs and forward beats, “Dope on a Rope” sounds like a track left off The Stroke’s 2011 album “Angles” — a not entirely absurd possibility considering The Strokes’ singer Julian Casablancas produced most of “City Club.” Unlike “All Your Happy Life,” the musical influences on “City Club” make it sound like a collection of different songs as opposed to a singular album.

While standout tracks “Too Many Times” and “Speed Living” show that the Growlers’ still have the capability of writing solid, standalone songs with sing-along lyrics, the album as a whole is a disarray of laconic musicianship fragmented by too many rip-offs of other bands.

The Wytches package their sounds — including haunting organ and stoner guitar riffs intertwined with Bell’s youthful lyricism — into a smooth album. “City Club,” on the other hand, changes musical styles without purpose, so The Growlers come off as a lazy band, possessing nothing near the angsty acuteness and musical focus of its previous albums.

Listen to “All Your Happy Life” for a harmonious plunge into noise rock. Listen to “City Club” for a jagged journey by a band that has lost its way.

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Kun Yong (Sean) Lee
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