Trippin' with Howlies

Let's face it. Howlies aren't reinventing the wheel with their debut full-length, Trippin' with Howlies, but they never meant to. If anything, they set out to reinvent themselves by hanging up the straight, college-rock angle of their prior incarnation, Moresight. The album opens with "Sea Level," a super-charged rock and roll anthem that winds, arcs and spirals with catchy hooks and a concise pop design, timeless in its execution.

The decision to bring producer Kim Fowley (the Modern Lovers, Runaways, the Germs) on board was instrumental in pushing Howlies' songwriting to a new strata of pop. In the wake of the wanton melancholy of "Smoke" or the post-modern theme song "Howlies Sound," it's easy to draw comparisons to the Ramones. But it's more fitting to drop names like Josie and the Pussycats, or closer to home, Baby Shakes. Howlies are the male answer to the both, although they're a bit rougher around the edges. The songs on Trippin' are mostly about hooking up with girls, pining over the ones with whom they've blown their chances, and coordinating their efforts to sway new ones.

Each song is a night in the life of four cocky dudes prowling through bars, slapping high-fives and bumming money for drinks every step of the way; and it's a lot of fun to follow along. "Adaptation" is a snarling, hook-laden rocker laced with anti-working-class complacency. "Dirty Woman" is a ramped-up, three-chord assault that boils rock and roll to its base elements.

Trippin' with Howlies is the first step in establishing Howlies' identity not as revolutionaries, but as a band of bro's learning the ropes of crafting fast and fun rock and roll.