Review : Howling Bells - Radio Wars
GuardianThey hail from sunny Sydney, but this solid second set cements the Bells firmly in rock's melancholia tradition, echoing the Bunnymen and Tindersticks. Cities Burning Down recalls 2006's fine Low Happening, and while some songs drone on (How Long), the minor chords toll with uplifting misery....full text
GuardianHowling Bells raised some eyebrows with their debut album's antipodean take on melodramatic gothic guitar pop. The follow-up tinkers with the formula, adding synths to the swooping chord changes beneath Juanita Stein's breathy singing. Stein is the band's trump card, and their achilles heel. Just as Louise Wener was in Sleeper, she's the sexy face in front of three anonymous-looking men: the definite focus on stage. Sadly, though, she's not much of a lyricist - "I don't want to hear about your policies," she admonishes politicians in Let's Be Kids, a plea for innocence that would embarrass a 12-year-old with its lack of sophistication - and her thin voice has no range: you want wistful? Here's kittenish. You want angry? Here's kittenish. You want passionate? Here's kittenish. The album's first half conceals those weaknesses beneath dramatic arrangements, but the law of diminishing returns sets in by the midway point....full text
MusicomhGone are the thundery, sinister stylings of Howling Bells' 2006 debut, as Radio Wars ushers in a slicker, sweeter incarnation of the Aussie foursome. Ironic that it should be titled Radio Wars, for if one phrase sums up the new sound, it's radio-friendly.
With its gurgly, bass-heavy melodies and helium vocals, the album yanks us backwards and drops us squarely into the US college radio sound of the mid-'90s. The ghosts of R.E.M. and The Go-Betweens bob up and down in the background of virtually every song; any of which would slot seamlessly into the track listing of a Throwing Muses or Belly album.
This appears to be a deliberate act of rebranding, from the swishy New England sound to the hey-look-at-us cover art. No more dusty horizons and gothic trees; now it's all Warhol passport portraits and MySpace pouts....full text
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