Album Of The Month- January09 -Howling Bells “Radio Wars”

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“Into The Chaos” By Howling Bells

All hail the first great album of 2009 ! Howling Bells are back with a follow up to their stunning 2006 debut. Their latest album “Radio Wars sees the band expanding their sound and moving forwards, yet still managing to retain the key elements that made their first album so hypnotic and exciting.

Listening to a Howling Bells album often feels like you’re being bewitched and slowly, subtly seduced, as they draw you into a world where beauty and nightmares are never far from the surface. Their songs are invariably haunting, menacing and unique, unique in the sense that you really couldn’t imagine anybody other than Juanita Stein singing them. She breaths life into each song, giving them depth, meaning and beauty, whilst the band provide the perfect stage upon which Juanita’s vocals can weave their subtle magic.

The bands next single “Cities Burning Down”  has a mesmerizing, futuristic, post apocalyptic vibe; one imagines if The Sunday’s Harriet Wheeler had fronted Joy Division, it would sound something like this. “Radio Wars” is without doubt the sound of a band on top form, fully focused, who know exactly where they want to go. Yes, maybe the production has been ratcheted up a notch ; it is not however, a band radically changing direction, as some feared. The album is a natural progression from the  eponymous debut, and as such should delight old fans, whilst reaching out to a new audience, which will hopefully lead to them adding to their already dedicated fan base.

Of the many highlights notable tracks are “ It Ain’t You” ( a future single surely) “Nightingale” which is thing of shimmering gorgeousness, a beautiful sultry Gothic lullaby, that is both moody and beguiling, whilst lead single “Into The Chaos” is an insistent, driving slice of cinematic pop. Not every track hits its mark, “Mrs. Bells Song (Theme from Radio Wars) ” has a rather unconventional outro, as the band inform us “Radio Wars are coming/ they’re here” but it fits perfectly with the sweeping, futuristic feel of the album. Then again, Howling Bells songs can often take a number of listens before you “get them”. “Golden Web” is a great song, but  was  having Juanita’s sentences being finished by one of the chaps in the chorus, strictly necessary?  However these are but minor quibbles, and the albums penultimate track “Digital Hearts” provides a glorious final flurry of moody magnificence ahead of the sensational closer,the  country infused “How Long.” Juanita’s sublime voice invokes memories of the velvety siren tones of Hope Sandoval at her sultry, seductive best as she laments “How long before I let you go/ how long before I let it show.” It’s quite magnificent and a  fitting climax to a fabulous album.This is an  album that takes the listener on a journey through  a myriad of differing emotions, and leaves them exhausted, but ultimately satisfied. Howling Bells truly have the ability to illuminate the darkness and paint the sky with stars.

Rating : 8/10

Now don’t just sit there, go on line and pre- order it …Here. ( “Radio Wars” is released in the UK by Independiente Records– 9/02/2009)

Track List

1. Treasure Hunt 2:44
2. Cities Burning Down 4:12
3. It Ain’t You 3:17
4. Nightingale 4:07
5. Let’s Be Kids 3:54
6. Ms. Bell’s Song (Radio Wars Theme) 5:27
7. Golden Web 3:22
8. Into The Chaos 3:14
9. Digital Hearts 3:35
10. How Long 3:25

Ipso facto

“Cities Burning Down” By Howling Bells


Interview With Juanita here

Live review here

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0 thoughts on “Album Of The Month- January09 -Howling Bells “Radio Wars””

  1. I didn’t mention Juanita’s looks as its nothing to do with the music. I think women in the music business,who are serious musicians (and in life in general) would like to be respected for things other than just their physical attributes.

    I am not impervious to Juanita’s obvious beauty, but I didn’t think it was relevant in the context of a music review.

  2. Just for your info, track 6 on your list above will be two separate tracks and there is another track missing from the promo of the album altogether. Goodness knows why the label decided to screw the promo up like that but it does mean a nice little bonus when you buy the shiny thing.

    Great review, great band – bring it on !

  3. really not that good is it..a band you sort of want to like cos theyre not ugly and they make all the right greenwood-lite sounds and eyelash fluttering always goes down well with the male nme crowd but aint new, it aint exciting and its probably why their last label dropped em..?

  4. Well yeah they look good, but they hardly go round trading on that fact do they – ? I never really had them down as an NME hyped band. For one they actually have talent, which is something the NME often seems singularly incapable of spotting . Personally I think Juanita has one of the best voices around, and the album is fantastic. But theres no accounting for taste i suppose ;P

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