Considering that the genre is and probably always will be associated with youth, it's worth noting that there are some more experienced players working in today's punk scene – and not just in “legacy acts” that play songs first recorded years if not decades ago. Count Gainesville, Florida quartet The Howleez among them. Singer Debra Fetzer, guitarist Hazel Levy, bassist Naheed Mojadidi and drummer Dave Ruckstahl (the only male of the bunch) cut their teeth in a variety of projects over the years, but their latest makes a brand of raw garage punk which harkens back to a time when the vast majority of genre musicians had little thought of or interest in crossing over to the mainstream. Fetzer's coarse and raspy vocals seem ideal for this type of rather raunchy material, and the 2015 EP No Shame stands as a mostly worthwhile debut effort.
Pounding drums and snarling guitar dominate the background of opener “Girl Friday,” which slides from its straightforward verse and chorus set-up into a downbeat interlude that captures the menacing feel of classic punk rock. The stomping “Tight” is slightly more relaxed, with Fetzer's vocal entering into back and forth exchanges with Levy's guitar at several points, but the energy level is cranked back up on the amusing “Beardos,” a thrasher that affords the vocalist a chance to take a few jabs at hipster culture.
The moderately-paced “Busy” strikes me as the piece here that just might be the most instantly likable. With driving instrumental parts and a nifty, slightly discordant chorus, it rocks hard even if it lacks the pure attitude found on previous numbers – or the album's subsequent title cut, one which finds Fetzer discussing actress Barbara Payton who, judging from the lyrics and actual history, lived a wild life (“banging six cowboys after a show / marriage, divorce, the whole rodeo”). While the singer's vocal delivery emphasizes some of the more sleazy aspects of the story, there's a sense that Fetzer has an admiration for Payton and that the song is a sort of reflection on changing times. No Shame finishes up with “Mickey,” arguably its most arresting and downright outrageous offering, dealing with actor Mickey Rourke and Fetzer's feelings about him. High (low?) point occurs when the singer freely admits that she'd “suck [Rourke's] cock.”
As a whole, No Shame gets better as it goes along. The somewhat unremarkable initial tracks are fairly typical in terms of their lyrics, but down the stretch, the album covers some, shall we say unique and thereby more interesting subject matter. I also found it refreshing and even commendable that The Howleez don't pander to younger audiences. If anything, this band seems to revel in the fact that it's made up of older players; how many of today's twenty-somethings or others have even the slightest clue who Barbara Payton is? Musically speaking, No Shame doesn't doing anything that I haven't heard before, but The Howleez clearly know what their doing and the eccentricities of this debut ultimately make it fun.