By Matt Davis
The Growlers have come a long way since forming over a decade ago. The band, who were once an amped-up reincarnation of The Doors, have polished their sound over the course of 6 albums. This group took a major leap forward with the release of City Club in 2016, which was produced by alt-rock legend Julian Casablancas of The Strokes.
While that album was a turning point for the band in terms of popularity, it didn’t quite feel them. Three years later, the band is back with a follow-up, which was released on their own Beach Goth label.
Imagine old friends quitting their white-collar jobs to buy a bar. That’s how this album feels, and we couldn’t be more excited about it. The Growlers are returning to their roots without ditching the lessons they’ve learned along the way.
The record opens with the laid-back, self-titled track “Natural Affair”. A catchy riff instantly pulls listeners in and carries them through to the chorus. Here, with a cynically happy tone, vocalist Brooks Nielsen sings, “Boys will be boys and get away with murder, Girls should rule the world, it’s true, If the world is round, how come it’s upside down?”. The dystopian sentiment is felt throughout the entire song and paired with the dreamy synth-pop music that accompanies it, this track puts a slight smirk on the face of listeners.
The “glass half empty” mentality doesn’t stop with the first song. “Pulp of Youth” opens with the line “The pop don’t sound the same no more.” For a band that’s made a living off the image of being youthful, stoner rockers, it’s no surprise that there’s a bit of melancholy as the band grows older.
But with age comes wisdom, and this album is ripe with it. This wisdom isn’t referring to advice that has been given to the band over the years. Instead, these songs reflect the cumulative sum of shared and individual experiences among band members, and the music oozes with that type of true wisdom.
Life’s heavy and The Growlers recognize it. But, no worries, they haven’t forgotten how to leave it all behind for a minute and have some fun.
That’s where the eighth track comes in; “Tune Out.” This bass heavy song is an easy one to dance to and has a relatable message; let go and let loose! The chorus goes “Tune out like riding for miles, forgetting who was driving the car,” and that’s a reminder we all need to hear, just as much as the Growlers.
This album has played a huge role in The Growlers becoming ‘professional musicians’ and that may be unfamiliar territory for them. In an interview with Alt Citizen, lead singer Brooks Nielsen shared, “We’re not really professionals you know. We’ve always been amateurs and it’s kept us in this slow-growing thing.” More than anything, Tune Out is truly that reminder that if you’re not enjoying your work than what’s the point?
Natural Affair isn’t a perfect album by any means, but what album is? At times, the album feels overcrowded and some songs never get where they’re going. However, this album is self-reflective, confident, and most importantly fun. It sounds like The Beach Boy and Cage the Elephant had a musical baby, and it’s a beautiful moment for modern-day surf rock.
Will this record be remembered as the album of the year? Probably not. But, a listen through this album will transport you from a chilly October day to the beaches of Southern California, and who doesn’t want that?