Artist: The Growlers
Album: Chinese Fountain
Label: Fat Cat Records
For fans of: The Walkmen, The Clientele, Real Estate
Standout Tracks: ‘Chinese Fountain’, ‘Good Advice’, ‘Not The Man’
[xrr rating=4/5]

Eight years since their inception, The Growlers’ fifth full-length offering— their debut for Fat Cat Records—continues to embellish their proud tradition of Beach Goth, surf guitars and sunburned vocals born and raised on releases such as 2013’s Gilded Pleasures. The difference? Chinese Fountain makes giant leaps forward with a disarmingly strong production aesthetic and a flow that feels as natural as the cycling tides.

The opening song duo of ‘Big Toe’ and ‘Black Memories’ are a stronger and more confident embodiment of the groups’ previous output, but things really start to get interesting by the time the record’s title track rolls around. With the simple addition of some post-punk synthesizers, The Growlers instantly propel themselves from the realm of moderate local beach stars to world-class contenders.

Chinese Fountain seamlessly transitions through the gentle Orange County ska of ‘Dull Boy’, then centres it’s dark storm around ‘Good Advice’—one of the record’s strongest tracks—before giving way to ‘Going Gets Tuff.’

The outro coda to ‘Magnificent Sadness’ provides a highlight moment as the band comes together in one of their greasiest jams to date. While ‘Love Test’ bemoans the dating options in L.A., ‘Not The Man’ provides another peak song that less daring artists would never relegate to three quarters of the way through their breakout release’s track sequence; proving that this is an album to be heard and felt in it’s entirety.

Buddy Holly is uncannily channeled on ‘Rare Hearts’ before ‘Purgatory Drive’ gives you the feeling that this short Southland journey with The Growlers is about to come to a premature end. They pull over, let you out, spin the wheels and kick up some dust as their road-trip resumes without you. Wherever they’re heading, you already wish you were going as well.

Anthony Braun Perry’s bass work sits as a central focal point to the album’s mix as Scott Montoya’s drums kick back and provide the horizon for Matt Taylor’s shimmering guitar work. Kyle Straka’s keyboard styling goes a long way to define and propel Chinese Fountain into territory previously uncharted…and the places they’ve already been have never sounded so good.

But what truly stands out about this record is the heart with which vocalist Brooks Nielsen delivers his bittersweet love letter to the sleepy beach towns of Southern California. ‘This techno’s so shitty/Even disco seems punk/Like the water’s so filthy/It’s no wonder why we’re drunk’ to quote just one of the many memorable lines from a rising prophet whose finally finding his stride.

Chinese Fountain is the soundtrack to the other side of Southern California; the side that isn’t all golden beaches, bodies, and boob jobs. It’s the grit in your teeth after a windy walk along the beach; the sneer from a homeless man as he collects cans and bottles left behind by the day’s tourists; it’s the feeling that you know you’re somewhere good but you’re still not sure of the price you’ll have to pay to stay here.

By Tim Mudd

Don’t miss The Growlers as they wind their Chinese Fountain tour through the U.K. later this year:

12 November 2014 – Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds
13 November 2014 – Village Underground, London
4 November 2014 – The Temple at Institute, Birmingham
15 November 2014 – Broadcast, Glasgow
16 November 2014 – Roadhouse, Manchester

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