The Catheters are an underrated, four-member Seattle, Wash., outfit currently touring in support of this, their second – and second horribly titled – album to be released on Sub Pop Records. Let’s disregard the title for now, because, as one of the few to see the group perform last weekend at the Hard to Find Showspace, I can assure you that their work eclipses any title they might give it.

The band is perhaps mostly credited for their live performances and inability to dodge comparisons to the Stooges and Mudhoney, but this album aims to set their sound in a completely unique direction. Though vocalist/guitarist Brian Standeford sounds a few years of vermouth-chugging short of channeling “Raw Power”-era Iggy Pop, the sustentation of his vocals throughout “Howling” proves he wields more than a marketable falsetto.

On Howling the band resigns the acerbic and jarring garage-punk fuzz that sent the tracks of its predecessor, Static Delusions and Stone-Still Days, sprawling out of speakers, and replaces it with a more refined, and dare I say, tuneful sound. I concede to experiencing a brief disappointment in this abandonment of blow-to-the-ears force that Static employed in its veritable punk-rock anthems. But, after numerous spins, each song reveals a surreptitious lyric or moment lurking that only precise playing and precise listening can uncover.

Take for instance the pristine fifteen seconds, after hitting the two-minute mark, of scaled chord progressions that climax back into the chorus of album standout “My Mouth.” The movement is simple, yet beatifically so. Certainly, Howling rewards careful listeners with penchants for subtle nuances and is bound to sate otherwise obsessive Catheters fans.

Even in the wake of the maturation of production quality, the Catheters’ marked brand of spastic energy shreds through tracks like “Ravenous Animal” and “We Are So Cold,” all while remaining steadfast. Without it, there would be no redemption for the occasional recondite lyric that toes the lines of waxing poetic, or being nonsensical or purely unintelligible. But then again, the Catheters don’t seem the band to play as if they were anything other than purists when it comes to loving what they do, and this anyone can hear.
[Jory Dominguez has a few words he’d like to have with whomever’s to blame for destroying the much-anticipated Distillers show on Sunday. Hmph.]