If you're wondering how much life is left in the well-worn genres of power pop and garage rock, the Howlies have an answer: as much life as hooks, harmonies and wicked humor can sustain. On this year's debut album, Tripping with the Howlies, the Atlanta band threads the precarious proto-punk needle of irony. Minimalist guitar, maximalist hand claps, torrents of la-la-las and playful soul balladry abound; notable tunes include "Aluminum Baseball Bat," which is at once the most absurd and exhilarating takedown of a romantic rival since the Modern Lovers' "I'm Straight." Whether it's doo-wopping around a street-corner trash can or daydreaming about pop heroines past and present (Maybelline and Roxanne for starters), the Howlies' reworking of rock & roll tradition is as skewed as it is seductive.
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