The Growlers’ sophisticated new persona

The Southern California band, The Growlers, released their newest full-length album, “Chinese Fountain,” which is a new venture for the band, who are known for their unique sound and dreamy, psychedelic songs. This new album proved The Growlers are getting serious about their music, while stuck to their roots.

Hailing from their recording studio in Costa Mesa, Calif., The Growlers featured Brooks Nielsen as the lead vocalist, Matt Taylor on lead guitar, Scott Montoya on drums, Anthony Braun Perry on bass and Kyle Straka playing the keyboard and guitar. Nielsen and Taylor handle the songwriting, and have been band mates for eight years.

“Chinese Fountain” was a step in the more “grown up” world of the music industry. It was the first time in the band’s history that they used quality equipment and a professional studio to record their music. 

The overall sound of the album has a lot more polished and a lot less experimental and garage band-esque, but the jangly instrumentation and the folksy vocals that The Growlers are known for, are still emphasized. 

The album is kicked off with “Big Toe,” a song about falling in love with a destructive woman. The choppy guitar kept in tune with the crash of the drums and provided a catchy backdrop for the clever lyrics: “she’s a lost cause, so count your losses.”

Next was “Black Memories,” a song with a dreamy, pop quality to it with a light guitar-playing and backup vocals. This song had deep, somber lyrical content: “sure as the wind keeps blowing, nothing’s gonna heal these scars.”

The title track, “Chinese Fountain,” proved The Growlers were indeed maturing with their music. The song unfolded through the singer’s reflection on society and the world around him.

Nielsen sung: “We are the miners of another generation, hills scraped dry with no choice but being creative. Everybody’s sick and tired of waiting, couldn’t get any harder to be patient,” The easygoing rhythm blended nicely with the meaningful and angsty lyrics, which made it a great title track for The Growlers’ grown-up album. 

“Dull Boy” is another track like “Chinese Fountain” that speaks against aspects of modern culture, as Nielsen puts it: “pulling out while there’s still time.” The gentle reggae beat matched the melancholic mood of the lyrics and created a very indie-esque coolness within the song. 

“Going Gets Tuff” is a realistic and honest song about something college students can easily relate to – money and career struggles – based on Nielsen and the rest of The Growlers’ experiences of living life on the road. The lively and upbeat instrumentation of this song paired nicely with the chorus: “Still always remembering when the going get tough, that the labor of our love will reward us soon enough.”

“Love Test,” the eighth track of the album, was an easygoing song with somewhat skewed lyrical content. Nielsen sung about an experience with the well-known trope “love isn’t easy.” But he also remarked on the culture and women of Los Angeles, as Nielsen sings: “All these women in LA look like they’re fading away, a woman should be strong with big legs and big arms.” 

The slightly graphic nature of the way women are represented in the song is a little off-putting, but again, the nice beat and the plain fact that, hey, love really isn’t easy credit the track.

The band’s unique sound led to the coinage of the term “beach Goth,” known loosely as a blend of Californian surf music of the 60s and pyschedelia of the 70s. 

A large music festival was created in lieu of this new musical phenomenon, which made this year’s Beach Goth Party the third annual celebration at the Observatory Grounds in Orange County on Oct. 25. The Growlers will be part of the lineup for the Treasure Island Music Festival on Oct. 19 in San Francisco. 

All in all, the direct and honest songwriting and a more polished sound featured on “Chinese Fountain” has boosted The Growlers to a new, sophisticated level while still remaining true to their trademark “beach Goth” essence.