The story behind ‘Hung At Heart’ is an interesting one. Originally, the Californian five-piece had planned to go into the studio to record with The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach. For some reason or other those plans fell through and instead ‘Hung At Heart’ was entirely self-produced on a customary low budget. Any thoughts of what might have been though are negated by a fine record which is high on 60s garage pop charms and is evocative of The Growlers’ own laid-back world.
Their sound is steeped in dreamy reflection and an easygoing lifestyle fostered on California’s many beaches. Many of the tracks here are soft focus, hugely melodic lilting pieces of old-time guitar pop. Opening track ‘Someday’ is a fair reflection of the record’s rickety yet endearing charm; in singer Brookes Nielsen they have a warm character prone to wistful reflection of a bygone age. His romantic laments are a key feature of the record: on ‘Someday’ he is declaring his love for an unspecified girl, stating that, “I’m going to be your man,’ while also promising, “I could give you everything you wanted.”
Elsewhere, Nielsen’s affections are for a lost love. On the swaying guitar waltz of ‘Living In A Memory’, he is bereft, sighing that his lost love’s face is, “clogging up my dreams” before resignedly decreeing, “There ain’t no girlfriend that should be living in a memory.” Nielsen’s charms provide a very welcome emotive touch.
‘Hung At Heart’ is not a particularly forward-thinking album with all of its 15 songs dealing in homespun 60s grooves, but this is a largely irrelevant quibble when the songs are this good. If there is one thing that defines ‘Hung At Heart’ then it is a yearning quality. A longing either for the past or for a specific ideal of the past. This is expressed in ‘Beach Rats.’ Here, Nielsen is singing about a time when everything was far simpler, a time of youthful exuberance. “Beach rats, reckless days, foul mouthed salty kids,” he sings on the chorus hook before solemnly lamenting, “I wish we were still young’, a feeling that most can easily relate to.
The Growlers - Natural Affair
13 years in, The Growlers are still masters of blending catchy pop choruses with dark, sleazy grooves.