The follow-up to 2014's demented Chinese Fountain, the propulsive City Club does away with the genre-hopping, "beach goth" aesthetic of prior outings, and installs a new, more streamlined foundation that favors punchy synths and a newly funked-up rhythm section. While the Growlers have always been a shifty bunch, it's hard not to attribute a great deal of this sea change to producer Julian Casablancas, who applies a significant amount of Strokes-ian swagger to the 11-track set. That cocksure, backbeat, and overdriven vocals-heavy style serves tracks like "City Club," "I'll Be Around," "Rubber & Bone," and "Speed Living" well, applying some much appreciated tightening to the band's spirited but ramshackle brand of nervy west coast psych-pop. However, in ditching so much of the sonic weirdness, the Growlers seem less inclined to go against the tide with their songwriting, resulting in something that feels like it has more in common with a Casablancas solo LP than it does the MGMT/Flaming Lips/Unknown Mortal Orchestra freakouts of yore. Still, there is a definite pulse that drives these songs, and while the band may have dumped their empties into the campfire and headed inland, they're still willing to stay up until the wee hours. City Club may not be what fans were expecting, but it's by far the Growlers' most immediate and accessible collection of songs to date.
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger