Jagwar Ma, Howlin
A Down Under debut of psychedelic jubilation and sheer physicality
Who’s up for the baggy revival? Vince Clarke’s game-changing remix of Happy Mondays’ “WFL” remains a pan-generational floorfiller almost 25 years after its release, and now here’s a band whose every other track summons up the exact same luscious, lolloping, mind-emptying euphoria. On this debut album, multi-instrumentalists Jono Ma and Gabriel Winterfield from Sydney, Australia, drink deep from the indie-dance well — or maybe they just came up with it independently on the other side of the world, as often happens with a good idea.
Either way Howlin is full of psychedelic jubilation and sheer physicality, throwing the flavors of ’60s girl groups or ’70s AOR or hardcore dub into a churning mix of lo-fi electronics, stomp-along beats and blissed-out chants. Opener “What Love” sets out the store with a mid-tempo stroboscopic pulse and a layered, very Summer of Love lyric — “Waiting for tomorrow brings another day and another sun.” It’s less of a song and more of a round. Single “The Throw” splashes wonkily-tuned desert guitar and a ’60s psych vocal across a slowed-down house beat, as if The Byrds had turned up at The Haçienda.
Though grooves predominate and Jagwar Ma’s live shows indicate that this is a band with two Bezes, Winterfield and Ma know their way around a melody too. Both “Come Save Me” (Brian Wilson goes minimal) and “That Loneliness” (Phil Spector plus Stax) have a surprising whistle factor.
Best of all, Howlin is resolutely optimistic and pleasure-bent, in contrast to the laddish conformity of baggy’s degenerate later phase. This album is a sun-kissed feel-good spectacular that’s just begging to be played loud in a field near you at 5 a.m.