Blame the Strokes, blame the White Stripes, but what is clear is that whatever spawned the rock revivalists to pick up guitars again needs to stop. I believe it is time to be a bit more farsighted than Is This It.
Just like 2002’s Static Delusions and Stone-Still Days, Howling… It Grows and Grows!!! delivers potent garage-rock virility that easily surpasses the mass appeal of bands like the White Stripes and the Hives in terms of noise, aggression, energy, and swagger. The Catheters opt for an aesthetic that has seethed through the underground since bands like Blue Cheer were active instead of whatever has resonated on radio airwaves.
It is no surprise, then, that the Catheters end up sounding like they do: drunk on adrenaline and gloriously noisy. Think MC5’s vintage, dirty and untreated garage physique. Think Unwound’s wide-eyed craze for mayhem. Think Mudhoney’s disorderly disposition.
However, when listening to Howling, you immediately recall the bands that shaped the Catheters — the Stooges and the Germs among them — and realize that this Seattle foursome are merely the derivative second generation of the aforementioned artists. Whereas the Catheters are far more exciting, abrasive, and vivacious than whatever MTV is passing off as rock ‘n’ roll these days, they seem all too plagiaristic when compared to the garage-rock kings they so obviously idolize.
As for the songs themselves, Howling is comprised of 11 tracks that all revolve around the same all too familiar musical motifs: fuzzy, raw guitar tones; primal and simplistic drum patterns; vocals that teeter between sneers and screams; rough and jagged production values. Within this strict structure, occasionally songs surface long enough to make an impact. “Reaction”, for example, features a hip-shaking drum stomp while Brian Standeford howls and spits syllables all over the track’s few minutes. Likewise, “Brave Drum” throws more searing guitars into the mix as a genuinely catchy vocal melody propels the track to fall out of obscurity.
Caught between the stylistic slash-and-burn rock ‘n’ roll popularized by the Stooges before the four members of the Catheters were even born and the current onslaught of insipid garage revivalists, the Catheters are left to be crushed between the extremes of now and then. Howling… It Grows and Grows!!! proves to rise above the mess of mediocrity currently clogging up the rock market (if just barely), but is nothing but an illegitimate child from rock’s real history (read: the MC5, the Velvet Underground, Mudhoney). Now, if they could only begin to write songs of their own….