Jowls - Cursed
Record Label: Doghouse Records
Release Date: May 2012
Tucked away in the semi-bustling city of Grand Rapids, MI – a city I have always enjoyed but never seem to spend enough time in – Jowls is not a band to be taken lightly. Though they get described in terms akin to Pg. 99 and Circle Takes The Square, the brash, groove-leaning aural attack of Jowls’ Doghouse Records debut EP Cursed hints at a number of bands. Yet, beneath the tidal wave of pounding guitars and pummeling percussion, the stark melodies and ever-present churning-like songwriting create suspension-like experiences at one moment – then weave with furor and purpose at the next. Cursed is a promising EP with its exploring, screamo-hinting timbre on full-tilt from start to finish, showing a band that while certainly with its strengths is still finding its own voice in a much reviving genre.
While never too abrasive or guilty of making terrible decisions of when to pull back the reins, Cursed shows a band well in tune with their songwriting abilities and their desire to turn that into something that is more of an experience than just another album. Droning guitars and in-your-face vocals burst forth on opener “Ruins”, with the mid-tempo rhythms sinking deeper and deeper into your head as the band pounds out chord after chord. The idea of the track, like most good ideas, is fairly simple with a few twists and turns to keep things interesting – including noticeable bass lines and strong drumming. The following number “Shamewalker” starts much less abrasively but follows a similar rhythmic pattern twisted into a different time signature for a familiar yet slightly different progression. Perhaps dwelling a bit too long before going full-force, the track adds heavier guitar lines and shrilling vocals once it does pick up. Ditching the introduction rhythms for something much more up-tempo, the flurries of drums steal the spotlight from the noodling guitars and shots of emotive screaming. Musically, we can hear Jowls straying from the grooves and really settling into something with a bit more substance and texture, making Cursed better off.
“Monotoned” stands out as well, as the grungy melodies give this track a unique feel on the EP considering the very post-hardcore leanings of this band. Yet, the rhythmic twisting of the track again yields a much more interesting section in the ending of this track when the grooves and melody meet for something just as attention grabbing even though the tempo has dropped. The most consistent track of the bunch, strange enough as it is also the shortest, is “Sway Slow”. Forward thinking at some points and ridiculously catchy at others, it is a perfect meeting for almost everything Jowls tries to do on Cursed whether it is musically, texturally or structurally. The final two numbers seem more like further explorations into the identity of this band, with “Indian Giver” running the gamut from breakneck tempos to click-based slow jams and ender “Long Winded” feeling like a continuation of ideas already heard but tweaked just a bit. It isn’t difficult for me to suggest these guys are still finding their footing as this EP gets repetitive plays, but more often than not the steps seem to be more sideways than backwards.
While not the strongest throughout, there are some really promising moments for Jowls on this EP. I would not be surprised to see this band pop up more and more as the year goes on, especially considering the caliber of acts Grand Rapids seems more than able to foster and support as bands regardless of genre spread their artistic wings.