The Growlers — like the golden poppy — are a California treasure. Where else can one find a band that effortlessly hybridizes elements of The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Libertines, The Surfaris, Ennio Morricone, and Lee Hazlewood, then filters them through its own “beach goth” sensibility and produces something amazing?
Chinese Fountain finds the band progressing down its storied road apace with more poetic, slice-of-life songs on their most mature album to date. On the funky eponymous song, singer Brooks Nielsen ironically growls: “Isn’t techno so shitty, even disco seems punk / Like the water so filthy, it’s no wonder why we’re drunk / Every little kid wants a computer in his pocket / The trophies on the mantels of the digital profits / The internet is bigger than Jesus and John Lennon / And nobody wants to know where we’re heading.” True that.
Meanwhile, the reggae-tinged “Going Gets Tuff” revisits Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come,” with a smidgen of The Coral thrown in for good measure. On ”Magnificent Sadness” — with its Eric Burdon and the Animals-themed “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” guitar coda — Nielsen existentially extols: “He feels the courage build / Like the sunrise upon the hill / Showing hope that he can / Someday understand.” Then, on “Love Test,” a lovelorn Nielsen croons, “All the girls in L.A. look like they’re fading away / A women should be strong with thick legs and big arms / No stars in the sky, they put them on the street / With the bums and the tramps that nobody needs.” It’s brazenly Bukowskian, but it works. Further on, “Rare Hearts” is a 21st-century riff on a Ricky Nelson–esque country-rock ballad that connects beautifully. On the whole, the album is appropriately named, as it flows wonderfully and is well worth throwing one’s yuan at.