Jagwar Ma – Howlin


About six months ago, I hailed “The Throw” as a song that excellently fused early 90’s rock influences with dub-glazed acid-house psychedelia, pretty much the same way Primal Scream did on their groundbreaking Screamadelica. Hearing “The Throw” for the first time was a revelation that made me wonder why it took such a long time for a band to bring back the essence of Screamadelica and the whole Manchester-era dance-rock psychedelia to the present. “The Throw” was and still is a marvelous success that joint together with the 60’s-style surf-rock of “Come Save Me”, made me hoped of great things for Howlin. But in hindsight, I may have jumped the gun when I wrote that Howlin promised to become a Screamadelica for a new generation. It’s not the groundbreaking record that some of us may have hoped for and frankly it’s been fairly little fuss about Howlin since its release. If anything, Jagwar Ma’s debut seems almost a bit overlooked. And I can’t help thinking that more writers/bloggers/journalists may have made the wrong conclusion of Jagwar Ma, putting the band on a pedestal on a basis of a few offerings and there by sucking the life out of the record even before it saw the light of day.

At this stage, it’s unfair to compare them to past greats, and even though I intended my Screamadelica comparison as a compliment, it was a pretty ignorant remark. Ultimately we have to remember that Howlin is the first display from a band with a lot of potential.  It took Tame Impala two records to get it right and it took Primal Scream even more. Gabriel Winterfield, who make up one half of the Australian duo recently addressed the issue in an interview; “I think hype can be dangerous if everyone is focusing on that and not actually the music. Like it needs to always be about the music…We’re not the second coming of anything, we’re just two dudes.” There’s a lesson to be learned for many of us bloggers who wants to jump on the wagon and endorse our favorite new act beyond any sense of reason, and while we never intend to do it out of bad intentions, collectively, we may end up seriously hurting our own or our readers expectations of any given artist’s or band’s debut.

Undoubtedly, the duo displays a real knack for creating sonic collages of trippy harmonies. “The Throw” is undeniably the finest moment on the record, but it’s surrounded by rousing moments like when the swirling guitar-led psychedelia of “Man I Need” turns into the free-wheeling neon-glazed acid-house anthem of “Exercise”, or when “Come Save Me” is contrasted by the punky progressive house of “Four”. It’s an album that effortlessly celebrates the joy of music without trying to be cleverer than it is. Howlin is not about reliving or feeling nostalgic about that certain aforementioned era in music (and indeed there’s a lot of Revolver-era Beatles or Pet Sounds-era Wilson embraced on here too), but to shape and form a wide set of vintage genres and turn it into a consistent up-to-date offering.

If you like me, felt a bit let down by Howlin due to expectations on the basis of “The Throw” or “Man I Need”, make sure to let go of your preconceptions and just take it for what it is; a life rejoicing summer album that should shake the hell out of any given festival crowd. It might not end up on any best of lists, but should give the duo enough confidence to push the boundaries on their second try.

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