Sound — 7
The Growlers return with their follow up to 2014s "Chinese Fountain," with the mature and focused "City Club." The album demonstrates a self awareness of their purpose as a band, and the scene in which they feel comfortable. The album has a consistent tone throughout, tackling various aspects of a broken person dealing with various aspects if life, backed with rich guitars and a crooning Brooks Neilson, starting with the title track, City Club. Certain tracks have a noticeable increase in maturity as far as songwriting goes, such as "When You Were Made," "World Unglued," "Too Many Times," "Blood of a Mutt" and the closing track, "Speed Living." The album as a whole sounds like a much more refined, and focused attempt at perfecting The Growlers sound. I wouldn't necessarily say they've done that since I am optimistic their next project will be more more adventurous. It certainly isn't as dynamic as "Chinese Fountain," but it tells a much more cohesive story and is much more consistent track to track and for that I enjoy it.
Lyrics — 9
The lyrics on this album really stood out to me as being a progression from "Chinese Fountain" in the sense that they understood thoroughly how to craft a melody, and instead of simply writing a good tune - they told a story. Songs like "Vacant Lot" tell a story of a desperate man who returns to the "Vacant Lot," presumably meaning a bar at 2-3 AM, and he passes out. Perhaps its something more sinister. "Night Ride" similarity talks about hanging out with an old acquaintance on a night ride with "night clubs and back rooms, baggies in the bathroom and [sic] nothings changes but you." "When You Were Made" is quite beautiful and describes the feelings of someone wondering why their parents are either divorced or not in love anymore, and perhaps thinking that its cruel that "my" world is cruel because of the situations my parents are in, however not to worry because "they were in love when you were made." It details how people inevitably change in time. Another favourite is "Blood of a Mutt," which claims that he's almost similar to a mutt in the sense that he's been whipped and shaped through his experiences. The lyrics are certainly very cohesive, and every has emotional depth which was somewhat absent on previous records.
Overall Impression — 8
"City Club" is a story, of someone who uses the city to cope with the problems of their life - much a way Brooks Neilson possibly did, or at maybe he is just very talented at portraying someone who has in his songs. Either way, "City Club" is the Growlers most thoughtful, cohesive and mature album to date. It tightly holds the same sound from track to track, so not to jar the listener at any moment and allow dir the comfortable ride throughout. I especially liked that this almost seemed like a refocusing project after 2014's diverse "Chinese Fountain." I think they understood that you could be conceptual with "Chinese Fountain," and instead decided to go for a narrative approach with "City Club." I think it works for an album, as it is very consistent and very cohesive. I also have to add that this album was produced by Julian Casablancas and was released on Cult Records, and the production shows. Julian understood the simplicity of The Growlers sound and wanted to give it a professional cut that allowed it to sounds full and polished while maintaining their uncut and raw sound. He also gave a pretty cool feature on the track Too Many Times, which has one of the best choruses on the album.
Overall, I'd say this album is not a step forward from "Chinese Fountain," but instead is a refocusing of their sound and the direction they wanted to focus on. They could go anywhere from here, but they seem to be self aware enough to know what their sound allows them to achieve. They wrote some fantastic songs on this album, which will be remembered as Growlers classics in part due to the production and involvement that Julian Casablancas had, but mainly due to Brooks Neilson's maturity since their last album. It definitely reflects on the album.
Favourite songs: "Vacant Lot," "Night Ride," "When You Were Made," "World Unglued," "Too Many Times," "Blood of a Mutt," "Speed Living."
Least Favourites: "I'll Be Around."