After a few kids, a devastating fire and a collaboration with The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas, The Growlers are a little more complex than the band used to be. And that’s okay.
The Growlers have naturally progressed past the simple days of the band’s youth, and its new album, Natural Affair, which was released Oct. 25, shows it refuses to regress back into its days of acoustic surf rock.
The second single from the album, “Foghorn Town,” is hardly the standout song, but it does exemplify the type of changes The Growlers have made along its career. Poppy and funky, the song still has that old-school sound fans look for in its music.
“Shadow Woman” and “Social Man” both begin with the same kind of choppy, lounge-esque keys and percussion that evoke disco. But lead singer Brooks Nielsen’s gravelly voice means that those songs never can definitively be pigeonholed into a genre. It’s still haunting but verges onto the pop genre more than any other Growlers album before it.
“Long Hard Night (Halfway to Certain)” retreats to the indie-pop side more than most of the songs on the album. Its guitars slide down the fretboard to find an Arctic Monkeys-esque riff, taking notes from Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino about how to merge pop and lounge music.
The band’s progression into pop has been easy to follow. From its Casablancas-produced City Club (2016) to Casual Acquaintances (2018), pop influences have been seeping into the band’s guitar-centric music to include more keys and heavier, rhythmic beats.
The music isn’t the only thing that has changed for the band. The third single, “Pulp of Youth,” is a reflection of band members’ childhoods compared to their own children’s. There’s no doubt that Nielsen was thinking of his son Valentino or his daughter Miko when he wrote the song. The band is aging and has more responsibilities than when it wrote “Derka Blues” or “Beach Rats.”
The album cover, which pictures the band members and their wives in face paint staring at Nielsen’s wife who is breastfeeding her three-year-old son, perfectly sums up the album both stylistically and thematically. It’s hard to age, and it’s even harder to watch children age, especially when it signals that the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle is long gone for The Growlers.
So, while The Growlers have left the days of hedonism behind, the new album is only natural amongst the progression of its last two albums. Natural Affair is, truly, a natural affair.