After two excellent and well received albums, Howling Bells took the eyebrow raising step of enlisting The Killers' Mark Stoermer to produce their third. 'Into The Sky' is the first single to be taken from those sessions, it's fairly conventional and thankfully produced without too much of the stadium sheen some had feared. It's unmistakeably a Howling Bells track, yet something seems to be missing. The vocals are as sweet as ever, the driving drums and bass are in place, the chorus is powerful and catchy, yet somehow 'Into The Sky' fails to engage in the way that the likes of 'Low Happening' or 'Into The Chaos' have done in the past. Pleasant enough but there's a slight sense that Howling Bells are simply going through the motions.
It's a Wikipedia entry with a finely honed sense of irony that describes a band as having achieved “Moderate popularity”, but the cyber contributor for Howling Bells chooses to use just that phrase. There are of course a million hard luck stories in rock related to near misses and could've beens, and the Australians' CV in comparison to some of them it could be argued stretches the use of modest to it's limits. Probably fairer to say that the real big time has continued to evade the Sydney quartet since the release of their eponymous début album in 2006, despite it's positive critical reception.
'Into The Sky' leads off their new third album The Loudest Engine, and their first for Cooking Vinyl since dispensing with a handful of former labels. Supposedly written whilst on tour with Coldplay two years previously (You can only imagine the boredom was inspirational) Bells' chanteuse/siren Juanita Stein still sounds like a disciple of PJ Harvey, fluttering away here again whilst her cohorts plod through a quiet/loud schmozzle that sounds almost embarrassed by it's mundanity. It's alright, in a...well, moderate kinda way, but it's very much the third support band of tunes, and I think we can all agree Florence Welch pretty much has the role of kooky front woman to herself at the moment. I could end with something xenophobic like “Not such a gudday, cobbers”. But that would just be crass.
Howling Bells - Into the Sky - Cooking Vinyl[/center] Juanita Stein’s teasing voice fogs the air with haunting echoes while somehow remaining paradoxically enticing. The Australian band’s single “Into the Sky” – off their third album - evokes a tale of dust, abandoned towns and long-gone gypsy wagons. Alas, it ends up betraying the group’s melancholic Neo-Goth influences with a deafening, pulsing beat that’s meant to force you to attention, but doesn’t.