This past Fall California beach goth band the Growlers released their fifth studio album, City Club. The album is the band’s first for Cult Records, the label founded by the Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas, who was soo taken with the Growlers that he also took on production duties. City Club is an album that looks both backward and forward. The familiar retro Growlers vibe is present, but there is a sonic shift into synth-laden funk territory. The sound certainly seems to feel the guiding hand and influence of Julian Casablancas. Ultimately, City Club is an admirable attempt at embracing experimentation and avoiding stagnation. The Growlers have been touring relentlessly behind the album and do not appear to be slowing down as they tear into 2017 with a solid run of dates that continue to sell out, including a recent stop at the filled to capacity Cat’s Cradle.
Without an opening band to ease into the proceedings, the packed house at the Cradle was tense and buzzing with anticipation by the time the lights dropped and the Growlers hit the stage. The band kicked off with “Naked Kids” from 2013’s Hung At Heart, before hitting their fans with a double-shot from the new album with “Night Ride,” and “Dope On A Rope.” Singer and frontman Brooks Neilson, was the epitome of disinterested cool as he strolled around the stage taking in the adoring diehard fans that packed the front of the club. The word was circulating that he had been under the weather and was possibly having some vocal problems. However, while he did occasionally kneel down in front of the drum kit between songs to take a swallow of tea, his voice seemed as clear and deliberate as ever. The band were tight as they blended a variety of sounds and influences from across their catalog. New songs like “Too Many Times” and “World Unglued” fit comfortably with fan favorites including, “Big Toe,” “Dogheart II,” “One Million Lovers,” and “The Moaning Man From Shanty Town.” They even reached all the way back to 2009’s Are You In Or Out? for “Old Cold River.” Throughout the performance it was tough to tell if the band was feeding off the crowd’s energy or if the crowd was responding to the band. Either way, it was a symbiotic connection that never wavered as the main set closed out with “Chinese Fountain” and “I’ll Be Around.”