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Howling Bells - RadioWars

Image For Howling Bells - Radio Wars

Do not listen to the hype around this release touting Howling Bells’ second offering as the vehicle to “cement their place in rock’s melancholia tradition” (Kimpton, The Observer, Feb 19). This is bollocks. If you’re seeking another album imbued with the gothic splendour and alt-country balladeering of their stellar post-Waikiki debut, Radio Wars is not it. However, if you’re after a piece of brash, loud, synthetic pop – akin to that offered by recent touring partners The Killers – this may just be your bag.

Whilst Howling Bells’ first self-titled album was largely attributed to the lovely Juanita Stein, this little yellow disc is the product of full band collaboration. Unfortunately, this does not equate to a diverse and interesting third, err, second coming. From the outset the album accosts with grandiose backing vocals and pervasive keys that go on to fill almost every track, drowning what little light and shade, or purported strings and brass, there may have been.

A sense of hope is offered with pared-back, stomping single Cities Burning Down but isn’t delivered upon until last track How Long where Glenn Mule’s infinitely expressive and impressive drum work (his live performances always a sight and sound to behold) comes to the fore. It’s followed by a nameless secret song which focuses on Juanita’s entrancing vocals. In between, the tracks are thick with repetitive, simplistic (some would say lazy) lyricism and songwriting that relies on walls of guitar sound, and those aforementioned synth keys, to fill the spaces in otherwise bland tunes.

Overall, the flat, clinical feel of the album alienates. It raises one question: why would they choose to digitise and over-produce this band’s natural beauty? It only serves to remove the charm that initially brought us under their spell.

Radio Wars is out 6 March through Liberation Music.

Comments

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gumbuoy

gumbuoy said on the 3rd Mar, 2009

sweet review Shan, was looking forward to this, but i might wait til it hits the bargain bins instead...

de-tec-tive

de-tec-tive said on the 3rd Mar, 2009

i'll be picking this one up one the weekend =)

Demosthenes

Demosthenes said on the 4th Mar, 2009

Aren't synthgroups the latest english music fad?

QueenNahs

QueenNahs said on the 4th Mar, 2009



Ta... it was a shock to the system for such a massive fan of their self-titled HB debut (I even loved Waikiki & still listen to that release on a semi-regular basis)... I skip the first track Treasure Hunt and then a few others on the way through on Radio Wars as I just cannot cope with how - as aptly noted by Demosthenes - unoriginal it sounds in the current context of voluminous 80's synth reprisals... I lament the raw emotion of yore... In my opinion, it is a worthy purchase for about four of the tracks... and it's the secret song that demonstrates that what they're trying to achieve with the new digitised sound can work, but it pales in comparison to the pit-of-the-stomach wrenching you experience when Juanita's au naturale vocals on Across the Avenue echo through your headphones...

Demosthenes

Demosthenes said on the 5th Mar, 2009

I hate music fads. In my own demented little mind, HB always struck me as tapping into the Dean Martin gunslinger ballad genre, just with a lush and modern alt-rock take. And I love that. That debut is sex on toast, and probably one of my most listened-to albums of the last few years.

I have the follow-up waiting at home for a spin, but I have no confidence that it'll get anywhere as much attention.

dream_brother

dream_brother said on the 5th Mar, 2009



you really baffle me 99% of the time.

QueenNahs

QueenNahs said on the 5th Mar, 2009



You're not demented. You nailed it.

dogmongler

dogmongler said on the 5th Mar, 2009

i don't mind the stylistic change, i mind that the songwriting has taken a backseat to it. the debut was substance over style, what happened?

jonnoseidler

jonnoseidler said on the 5th Mar, 2009

these guys lost it when they moved to LA. tossbags..

Napoleon Solo

Napoleon Solo said on the 5th Mar, 2009

Howling Bells were once good?

kill

kill said on the 11th Mar, 2009

I heard their singer on JJJ blabbing on about a song they wrote which was about how people should be more optimistic and that life is all good, no need to be so down. What?!? They need to get together with Ben fucking Lee and write more gay songs. Its music like this that gets undue publicity that embarasses Australian music. Ben Lee, Sneaky stink system and bloody Natalie Assing-weight! Its a joke. A sad joke freeking joke. Middle of the road is the only road these people know, and its just as well coz its easier to run them down. poo to them I say and poo to the label that spend the blood money on hyping the shit out of a pile of turd. The end.

gumbuoy

gumbuoy said on the 11th Mar, 2009



Was that before or after they moved to London?

BrendanHB

BrendanHB said on the 14th Mar, 2009

What did all you wankers do before the internet??
I liked it better when music was released and everyone had to shut their fucking mouths!!!
Next time you have the urge to talk shit about my band, why don't you come to a gig and say so to my face! That way I can review all your albums.... oh, wait! I thought I was talking to my equals. Instead I'm wasting my time with people who haven't got the balls or the talent to put anything out at all. I guess the jokes on you then heh?

BrendanHB

BrendanHB said on the 14th Mar, 2009

What did all you wankers do before the internet??
I liked it better when music was released and everyone had to shut their fucking mouths!!!
Next time you have the urge to talk shit about my band, why don't you come to a gig and say so to my face! That way I can review all your albums.... oh, wait! I thought I was talking to my equals. Instead I'm wasting my time with people who haven't got the balls or the talent to put anything out at all. I guess the jokes on you then heh?

BrendanHB

BrendanHB said on the 14th Mar, 2009

What did all you wankers do before the internet??
I liked it better when music was released and everyone had to shut their fucking mouths!!!
Next time you have the urge to talk shit about my band, why don't you come to a gig and say so to my face! That way I can review all your albums.... oh, wait! I thought I was talking to my equals. Instead I'm wasting my time with people who haven't got the balls or the talent to put anything out at all. I guess the jokes on you then heh?

BrendanHB

BrendanHB said on the 14th Mar, 2009

What did all you wankers do before the internet??
I liked it better when music was released and everyone had to shut their fucking mouths!!!
Next time you have the urge to talk shit about my band, why don't you come to a gig and say so to my face! That way I can review all your albums.... oh, wait! I thought I was talking to my equals. Instead I'm wasting my time with people who haven't got the balls or the talent to put anything out at all. I guess the jokes on you then heh?

BrendanHB

BrendanHB said on the 14th Mar, 2009

There. I've given you four separate avenues of attack.
Knock yourselves out!!!

worldsfastest

worldsfastest said on the 15th Mar, 2009

i thought i was talking to my equals

part of me wants to believe that this is actually the guy from the band and he is actually that stoked on himself and the band to say something so self righteous. I'm sure though it's someone having us on

but if it is him why would people go to the show just to tell them they're shit?
clearly doesn't handle criticism well

i don't know their music deeply enough to have an opinion

de-tec-tive

de-tec-tive said on the 15th Mar, 2009


i'm okay with that.

anyway i bought it today but haven't had a chance to listen to it properly yet

mooney88

mooney88 said on the 15th Mar, 2009

What did all you wankers do before the internet??
I liked it better when music was released and everyone had to shut their fucking mouths!!!
Next time you have the urge to talk shit about my band, why don't you come to a gig and say so to my face! That way I can review all your albums.... oh, wait! I thought I was talking to my equals. Instead I'm wasting my time with people who haven't got the balls or the talent to put anything out at all. I guess the jokes on you then heh?
1. i was a child before the internet
2. you liked it better when music wasnt talked about?
3. why would people pay to go to your gig when they dont like your band.
4. you have lost the right to be a critic about anything, ever.

de-tec-tive

de-tec-tive said on the 15th Mar, 2009

What did all you wankers do before the internet??
I liked it better when music was released and everyone had to shut their fucking mouths!!!
Next time you have the urge to talk shit about my band, why don't you come to a gig and say so to my face! That way I can review all your albums.... oh, wait! I thought I was talking to my equals. Instead I'm wasting my time with people who haven't got the balls or the talent to put anything out at all. I guess the jokes on you then heh?
wow. umm okay, even though some people were saying they didn't like it, some people do, and you just made yourself look like a jerk to everyone.

gumbuoy

gumbuoy said on the 15th Mar, 2009

What did all you wankers do before the internet??
I liked it better when music was released and everyone had to shut their fucking mouths!!!
Next time you have the urge to talk shit about my band, why don't you come to a gig and say so to my face! That way I can review all your albums.... oh, wait! I thought I was talking to my equals. Instead I'm wasting my time with people who haven't got the balls or the talent to put anything out at all. I guess the jokes on you then heh?

Not really. How is the joke on us? I dont get it.

The joke would be on us if you deliberately put out a bad album to get fans talking on the Internet, or if you were secretly keeping your good album under wraps, and are now not going to give it to anyone who slagged you off.

Also, if you put my name on the door, ill come to your show and tell you i liked your old stuff better than your new stuff. but im not going to pay money to do it. let me know if you can get my name on the door.

Also, learn how to use the internet.

brownie-ll

brownie-ll said on the 15th Mar, 2009

What did all you wankers do before the internet??
I liked it better when music was released and everyone had to shut their fucking mouths!!!
Next time you have the urge to talk shit about my band, why don't you come to a gig and say so to my face! That way I can review all your albums.... oh, wait! I thought I was talking to my equals. Instead I'm wasting my time with people who haven't got the balls or the talent to put anything out at all. I guess the jokes on you then heh?

Play New Technology!

worldsfastest

worldsfastest said on the 17th Mar, 2009

i'm bitterly disappointed brendan hasn't returned

i'd really like to hear from an expert

by the way guys... i'm bono ... i haven't told you because i didnt want to cause a scene

dogmongler

dogmongler said on the 17th Mar, 2009

man i hope you guys weren't being serious

snapcrackleROCK

snapcrackleROCK said on the 17th Mar, 2009

i'm bitterly disappointed brendan hasn't returned

i'd really like to hear from an expert

by the way guys... i'm bono ... i haven't told you because i didnt want to cause a scene

Bono, I'd just like to say on behalf of music lovers everywhere, kill yourself now and beat the rush.

QueenNahs

QueenNahs said on the 21st Apr, 2009

I only just came back to this out of interest and I really hope Brendan is real...

I left a comment on HB's myspace saying what I thought after I listened a few times over and prior to writing the review - that I love Cities Burning Down etc but can't get my head around the rest of the album, but looked forward to them proving me wrong via live performance - and my comment was never posted... why is that?

Because apparently we're all meant to keep our (critical) opinions to ourselves...

anxious0

anxious0 said on the 22nd Apr, 2009

I somehow missed this thread, hilarious!

Actually really enjoyed the howling bells at V Fest

snapcrackleROCK

snapcrackleROCK said on the 22nd Apr, 2009

I somehow missed this thread, hilarious!

Actually really enjoyed the howling bells at V Fest

Same. The chick can rock.

PS is Waikiki worth getting?

gumbuoy

gumbuoy said on the 22nd Apr, 2009

Same. The chick can rock.

PS is Waikiki worth getting?

yeah i quite like it, its a little poppier than the first HB album, but its still got the same craftsmanship and her great voice.

worldsfastest

worldsfastest said on the 22nd Apr, 2009

I only just came back to this out of interest and I really hope Brendan is real...



yeh we all do but this is the dirty work of Dekar

dogmongler

dogmongler said on the 22nd Apr, 2009

what are you talking about, that dude used punctuation

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 22nd Apr, 2009

You used punctuation back in the day.

dogmongler

dogmongler said on the 22nd Apr, 2009

then i realised you also did

NEVER AGAIN

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 22nd Apr, 2009

Oh, hardy har har.

As if I'm the only person to use proper punctuation.

de-tec-tive

de-tec-tive said on the 22nd Apr, 2009


only if it's under $10. i haven't listened to it in ages though, maybe i should give it another shot.

stinger99

stinger99 said on the 22nd Apr, 2009

Heard lots of this band on JJJ... sounded great I thought.