Post by incoasterble on Sept 13, 2011 22:52:28 GMT
So I found this crazy fanboy freakout review constructing itself on my PC's desktop tonight...
.....Honestly not given a CD the ‘‘play on repeat and **** the rest of my vast, cavernous, eclectic heap of music’’ treatment since The Joy Formidable released The Big Roar last Autumn, and prior to that it was Fire Like This by Blood Red shoes, these were really the first times I’d given an album this level of playage since I found out Highly Evolved & Winning Days by The Vines existed back in 04. (Howling Bells’ self titled 06 debut sure did mean a lot to me though). .....But The Loudest Engine does actually seem to be getting that level of attention from me. Explaining why though? – Maybe I can associate so well with the music because for me it seems in some distant way to resonate well with the course of my own life, the colour of my dreams; or maybe it just falls in a place that’s so dead centre relative to all the other music I like – I place I couldn’t describe to you for all my worth, let alone would I know it if I were there or not, in fact it probably doesn’t even exist. I digress…
.....I guess what sticks from The Loudest Engine is that the dark, gothic atmosphere, with cruelly minor tones is present as ever, but it’s laced with a uplifiting trippiness. I’m glad to finally hear Howling Bells crank up the distortion and use some heavier guitarwork, and I honestly think Joel has developed a wonderful style, which with its depths and intricacies has finally stolen The Vines’ crown in my mind – kinda like The Vines’ awesome, way out psych sounds but with an added elegance and skill. .....I think the use of some more unusual folk instruments also adds a welcome dimension to the sound. Extensive vocal harmony is something I always felt Howling Bells’ music lacked in a way, but thankfully they’ve developed this incredibly well I think. I'm just in awe at how good Juanita on top of Juanita sounds on many of the tracks. The lead vocals stand out clearly above some really creative backing harmonies; I particularly adore what's been done with Charlatan, Wilderness & Sioux - really there's a much more well rounded sound and some rather crazy stuff going on at points. If I had one criticism, maybe the lead is standing out too clearly all the time, would love to hear something where you can't pick the melody out from the harmonies... I dunno... .....As for the lead vocal work, I’m impressed by how Juanita seemsto’ve let her enthralling vocals flow out more freely and powerfully, whilst at the same time she’s flourishing with more style, skill and variety – things I’m ever amazed by her ability to recreate in real life… .....I think keeping production loose is certainly a good thing, but what I do think though is that I’d like to have heard more done with the production, to my mind it’s a bit of a lost opportunity – a bit crisp and simple. For example The Vines’ ‘Highly Evolved’ has a loose production style but there’s still so much depth in what they’ve done that honestly a few more dimensions have been created. But I guess you have to let Mark Stoermer off since it’s his first time. As for whoever said it needed editing down a bit in length, well I disagree – whoever said that should give Highly Evolved a good listen – some of the songs are just epic in length, but all the better for it. .....Songwise, I can honestly say nothing on there’s letting me down – a rare and good thing to my mind. Once I heard Alison Mossheart of The Kills say when she was asked about people’s theories on whether first albums were best or such, she bluntly replied ‘I think your songwriting ability is something that improves over time and experience, some disagree…’ I have to say I agree with her as I can’t see how more experience could ever make for less decent music. Nuff said on that. .....Sioux always makes me think of what might have happened after the end of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. The Wilderness just totally rules. I love Baby Blue, which to me seems like this crazy counterpoint to Catatonia’s Way Beyond Blue; being apart from someone you love very deeply can be just as tragic as being really close (that’s just my interpretation though). Also liking how some of the songs remind me of Waikiki a little. .....Subjectively, maybe I'd love to hear something more carefree and happy from them, less about wanting and more about having. Comparing TLE to their earlier stuff though, honestly I think there's a brighter and more colourful sound coming out. Howling Bells' music seems to jump out of the stereo dimension and grab me by the heart as much as ever...
.....If ya have, then thanks for reading and please please feel free to disagree with me!
Edited this a tad, since I think in retrospect I kinda disagree with myself a little... And now honestly my Bose QC3s are doing The Loudest Engine a LOT more justice than my Fiesta's speakers could......
Australian-formed, London-based rockers Howling Bells return to the limelight with their new album The Loudest Engine. However the band appears to be not only comfortable, but disappointingly so.
Much of The Loudest Engine was penned throughout a year-long touring adventure and it seems to be a product of the dry monotony that comes with life on the road. It’s unfortunate that the album sticks steadfastly to brooding melancholy as this is far from uncharted territory for the band.
Second track Into The Sky offers some electricity as Juanita Stein’s lofty delivery combines with a squealing lead guitar. The album’s more intimate stretches also sit among the overall highlights, the breezy acoustic affair of Don’t Run providing some light relief. “Don’t close the door on me,” Stein pleads, the song’s chorus emerging a bittersweet joy. Meanwhile, The Wilderness proves a little less successful, appearing fragmented and confounding in its composition. The song’s outro reflects nicely that which the title suggests – an interlude of whimsical cymbal-crashing fury ensuing – though just why the track needed seconds of utter desolation to precede its finale seems inexplicable.
On the whole, The Loudest Engine feels unimposing, ultimately suffering from a disjointed ebb and flow in quality before succumbing to a serviceable yet inoffensive plateau. It’s just fine – and yet that’s half the problem. There’s little to suggest Howling Bells have dared or expended any wild creativity in crafting The Loudest Engine and, as a result, it’s likely listeners will too easily find their attention span falling by the wayside with each passing moment.
Fans will no doubt find some value in taking The Loudest Engine for a spin, though it seems improbable that Howling Bells will be making too much of a splash in 2011. Unfortunately, their third album is merely a serviceable release that could use more than a little spark across the board.
It's been a while since we've heard anything new by London-based Sydney band Howling Bells. We certainly haven't seen them in Australia for ages, and the hype around them over here has kind of died down since their last album, Radio Wars. However, over in the UK, they are one of the hottest rock bands out, supporting Coldplay on tour and being promoted by big names in contemporary music like Gary Lightbody (Snow Patrol). The Loudest Engine does not reflect this overwhelming success; it is not at all pretentious or over the top – rather, it is a modest, wholesome and dark rock album.
Radio Wars was quite the pop record, with drum machines and synths laced through it, and listening to The Loudest Engine it is clear that pop is a thing of the past for Howling Bells at this point. They have reverted to their debut album style in creating organic, well-structured rock that would draw comparisons to the White Stripes, Arcade Fire and the Velvet Underground.
The leading single, “Into the Sky” has a great bass ostinato running through the accompaniment and the chorus lifts the song really well. The song is quite thin in terms of instrument layers; lead singer Juanita Stein is with no doubt the star of this song. Her voice is beautiful, but the high and breathy way she is singing makes you wonder why she won't just belt out the melody. A stronger, well-supported vocal line could've added a lot to the song. In saying that, however, her voice works perfectly with songs like “Secrets” and “Gold Suns, White Guns” - vulnerable in quiet moments, and assertive in the louder moments.
“Don't Run” is my favourite song on the album, although quite out of character in demeanour and mood for Howling Bells. The acoustic guitar and tambourine combine brilliantly with the sweet vocals, and there are some fantastic harmonies between the lead and backing vocal lines. Stein's voice is at it's best in this song; it is smooth and unaltered yet flawless.
Howling Bells are a band full of promise and great talent. They have produced a versatile and well accomplished album, and it is pretty impressive. I think this is a stronger album than Radio Wars. The Loudest Engine sees this group of musicians reverting to their debut album's style with more focus and ambition and they have successfully created a solid, polished record.
Firstly, some context. 2006′s self-titled debut record by Howling Bells remains a personal favourite of mine – it’s a masterpiece of bleak, 3am loneliness, all haunting guitars and fragile emotions, and it positively drips with atmosphere. By contrast, I found 2009′s follow-up Radio Wars to be a huge disappointment – it felt like the band had forgotten everything that made their music good in the first place. Thankfully, I’m pleased to report that third album The Loudest Engine feels like a step back in the right direction.
The crucial difference between this record and Radio Wars is that the band have rediscovered their ability to make music that feels atmospheric – no doubt aided by their decision to decamp to the Nevada desert to work on these songs. In that sense, album-opener ‘Charlatan’ feels like a statement of intent, sounding like the sun-baked morning after to the first album’s night before. The track’s bassline buzzes and its guitars convulse, as Juanita Stein’s characteristic vocals cut through the haze with the sober realisation that there’s more to the song’s titular character than meets the eye – “you’re not a man, you’re a beautiful, beautiful charlatan.”
Next up, ‘Into The Sky’ may seem to utilise the more straightforward pop-rock template the band used on Radio Wars – but thanks to some fuzzy guitar squalls and a soaring chorus vocal, it manages to do so in a way that’s not entirely devoid of character. ‘The Faith’ achieves much the same thanks to a driving rhythm section and some atmospheric backing vocals. Elsewhere, you’d probably expect a track entitled ‘The Wilderness’ to be evocative of the vast, open wilds, and once it gets to the halfway mark it does its damnedest to achieve that, with galloping drums and frazzled guitar freakouts driving the song to its conclusion.
Title track ‘The Loudest Engine’ has the slightly oddball conceit of being an ode to “the soul of the tour bus,” (the band’s words, not mine). The lyrics attempt a sassy and confident personification (“she’s dangerous/and shameless/so don’t even try to tame her”), but occasionally just read like a slightly bizarre job description (“a think tank/your road priest/she’s everyone’s favourite whore”) – nevertheless, the song’s squealing guitar breaks do just about enough to make the latter forgivable. Another slightly off-kilter experiment comes with the floaty, Kate Bush-esque vocals of ‘Gold Suns, White Guns’ that have Stein comparing her lover to a spaceman – and as eyebrow-raising as that sounds, it doesn’t come across as entirely ridiculous.
Tantalisingly, the record’s final tracks almost feel like they could’ve been lost cuts from the first album. ‘Baby Blue’ smoulders with the same sense of after-dark longing that permeated the band’s debut, while ‘Invisible’ is the sound of night falling on the album’s desert landscape, and it somehow feels like a distant cousin to Howling Bells’ closer ‘I’m Not Afraid’.
Listening to The Loudest Engine, I get the feeling that Howling Bells have found their feet again after making a bit of a mis-step with their second album. The standard of the tracks on here is generally higher, and the overall sound is more thoughtful and atmospheric – sure, I wouldn’t put it on the same level as their debut, but it feels like a decent comeback nevertheless.
Hot on the heels of the critically acclaimed debut from Cloud Control, London-based, Sydney four-piece Howling Bells' third album, The Loudest Engine, continues the Australian indie bands' sudden love affair with '60s psychedelia and '70s Americana on 12 tracks that bear all the hallmarks of the Southern states they traveled through while supporting Coldplay. Given an extra-authentic Nevada Desert sheen by the presence of Killers' bassist Mark Stoermer as producer (his first solo role outside his band), it's a much grittier affair than its electro-tinged predecessor, Radio Wars, as evident on the propulsive basslines and screeching acid guitars of the gothic new wave title track, the grungy blues of "Baby Blue," and the scuzzy garage rock of "Invisible." It's a convincing and natural progression which is likely to sound even more powerful during the kind of live shows which inspired it, but fans of their previous shimmering, shoegazing sound shouldn't be too concerned, as the likes of the Cocteau Twins-esque "Into the Sky," the gorgeous West Coast harmonies of the post-apocalyptic "The Wilderness," and the chiming melancholy of "Sioux" are just as ethereal and magical as the best offerings from their first two records. Juanita Stein remains their most captivating weapon, her versatile femme fatale tones effortlessly gliding from ghostly PJ Harvey-style brooding on opening track "Charlatan," to Kate Bush-inspired banshee dramatics on the twinkling "Gold Suns, White Guns," but Stoermer's woozy production proves the first time that her striking vocals have found a backdrop to match them. The lackluster middle trio of "Don't Run," "The Faith," and "Live On" are a little too pedestrian when compared to the distinctive and uncompromising tracks on either side of them, but despite this half-way lull, The Loudest Engine is still a consistent and admirably raw back to basics affair which deserves to repeat the success of their neighboring retro-rock revivalists.
Allmusic ...The lackluster middle trio of "Don't Run," "The Faith," and "Live On" are a little too pedestrian...
That was a good review. I don´t think those mentioned songs were a bad thing in the middle of the album. Live On is fun and catchy. There had to be some easier moments to highlight the rock and more out there moments. I think the sequencing of the album is quite well done if that matters today.
The line between bands which are perennial also-rans and bands which are merely terminally under-appreciated is an indistinct one, and it remains to be seen to which side of that stripe that Howling Bells belong. The Australian rockers have managed to fall just short of mainstream acclaim with both the brooding country-blues of their first record and the poppy brightness of 2009’s Radio Wars. Their third attempt to crack the golden egg is The Loudest Engine, “a modern psychedelic record” put to tape last year in the Nevada desert and featuring the Killers’ Mark Stoermer in his debut producing role. Singer Juanita Stein describes the album as “more folk and rock than our last two albums” and one which “will change people’s perspectives on the band”. It’s certainly had a long gestation, and while the end result recalls the organic state of their debut more than Radio Wars’ foray into synth-happy territory, it also evinces an attempt at bringing a brand new acid-rock tinge to the Howling Bells sound, mostly through its preponderance of shuddering percussion, silvery guitar twists, and dirty riffs building to bluesy, windswept crescendos.
The album’s conditions of production – mostly recorded on the road and entirely imbued with Nevada’s wide-open spaces, heat and dust – have heavily scored the resultant thirteen tracks. Opener ‘Charlatan’ steps right up, Stein’s voice pulsing with bruised resilience over swinging, slicing guitar lines before the rhythm section punches its weight. Her vocal presence retains its sleepy-eyed but striking sultriness throughout the record, while brother Joel Stein’s guitar-playing is on flexible and commanding form. There are interesting and accomplished moments here: ‘The Wilderness’ stands out for its tense opening strut and concluding clamour overlaid with tremulous vocals, ‘Baby Blue’ for its Appalachian twang, and the gently imploring ‘Don’t Run’, which recalls early Super Furry Animals in its melodically overlapping vocals and guitar licks. Unfortunately, The Loudest Engine’s lasting impression is that of a tour through carefully cherry-picked sounds rather than something truly homegrown.
Howling Bells are at their best when not straining too hard to strike an attitude, something they achieve most notably on ‘The Faith’, an unashamedly poppy, swirling mix of plangent guitars and backing vocals that urges steadfast love against the vagaries of an uncaring universe. That this song is followed by ‘Live On’, which acknowledges that such personal relationships aren’t built to last either, reinforces the album’s breezily stoical if inconsistent philosophy. These upbeat exhortations are more plausible than the attempts at experimental edginess the band make elsewhere: the more the choppy title track talks about being “dangerous and shameless”, the more you want the band to show rather than tell, while ‘Gold Suns, White Guns’ comes off as a totally incongruous Kate-Bush-in-space oddity.
“We’re all scared to take on a rhythm of a different kind,” sings Stein on the shaky and sharp-edged ‘Invisible’, but on the evidence of The Loudest Engine the band’s anxiety seems entirely justified. Despite the new direction, Howling Bells’ music is still frustratingly defined by hooks that, however well crafted, aren’t quite enough to catch.
Allmusic ...The lackluster middle trio of "Don't Run," "The Faith," and "Live On" are a little too pedestrian...
That was a good review. I don´t think those mentioned songs were a bad thing in the middle of the album. Live On is fun and catchy. There had to be some easier moments to highlight the rock and more out there moments. I think the sequencing of the album is quite well done if that matters today.[/quote]
I agree, it is well sequenced and those songs are definately a good thing since without them I think TLE would be a bit of an unbalanced album... They're standing up well to the rest imo, just different points along a logically set out listening journey.
Born in Australia, raised in London, and graduating with their third album recorded in the Nevada desert, Howling Bells have toured with the likes of Coldplay and The Killers, but are less pop-oriented than either, though The Killers' Mark Stoermer is in the production seat on this album.
And with this graduation they've come up with an album that's a little more mellow, a little more 70s-inspired, a little more folk rock than 2009's Radio Wars, and celebrates their guy/girl vocal harmonies.
Their gothic tinge, and burning melodies centre the psychedelic guitar-based soundscape, and vocalist Juanita Stein (who's also on rhythm guitar, with brother Joel on lead guitar) is a charismatic force.
Opening track Charlatan has a swaggering, bluesy character, while Secrets has a deeply grooving bass line. Live On is a pulsing, air-punch-type track.
Title track The Loudest Engine is a highlight - passionate yet ghostly, with dizzying rhythmic patterns and Gold Suns, White Guns embraces the more cinematic notions of their previous work, with Stein getting all Kate Bush.
There's a certain expansiveness to the tracks, perhaps influenced by their time spent recording in the desert, and occasional echoes of Fleetwood Mac and P.J. Harvey, which lend a maturity to the songs.
Stars: 4/5 Verdict: Gothic Americana rock from the desert
Auf der Suche nach den spirituellen Wurzeln: Howling Bells entwickeln sich mit "The Loudest Engine" sichtbar weiter, den letzten Schritt der Metamorphose vollziehen sie aber nicht.
"The Loudest Engine" ist ein Album, was von Wüste, endloser Leere und dem Wunsch nach Selbstfindung geprägt ist – so oder so ähnlich jedenfalls kommentieren die Howling Bells ihr neuestes Werk. Derlei meditative Wurzelsuche erinnert an eine Szene des Doors-Films, in der Morrison und Co. – von Peyote entfesselt – in wilder Ekstase über die Dünen des kalifornischen Outbacks tanzen. Die klassische Hippie-Szenerie also. Klischees beiseite gelassen allerdings ein durchaus verheißungsvoller Ansatz, der schon so manches Kleinod zu Tage gefördert hat. Sich als schamanischen Wegbegleiter dann jedoch den Killers-Bassisten ins Boot zu holen, wirkt etwas paradox, denn – so scheint es – deren psychedelische Quellen liegen irgendwo zwischen Tanzflur und T. Rex begraben und sind runzlig wie Haut nach drei Stunden Wasserbad.
"The Loudest Engine" vermittelt einem das Gefühl, der Motor der Maschinerie müsse erst einmal anlaufen, bis sich die Howling Bells in Form gespielt haben. Strukturell kann man die Platte in zwei Teile halbieren. Im Ersten, eingeleitet vom bluesigen Garagen-Rocker "Charlatan", der mit flirrendem Orgelriff und repetitivem Akkordgeschrammel durchaus Wüstenfeeling aufkommen lässt, finden sich viele äußerst verheißungsvolle Ansätze. Darunter auch "The Wilderness", was zwischen bezirzend-poppigen Vokal- und Instrumentalparts und sirenenartig hypnotisierendem B-Teil springt und das kompositorische Talent der Band eindrucksvoll unter Beweis stellt. Dennoch wird man den Eindruck nicht los, die Platte halte ihre Hörer immer auf einer Armlänge Abstand. Das explosive Moment deutet sich häufig an, versandet jedoch zu oft auf der energetisch gleichen Ebene. Der nötige Funke Leidenschaft will einfach nicht so recht überspringen. Jedenfalls bis zum titelgebenden "The Loudest Engine".
Das kommt überraschend düster um die Ecke und verleiht der knarzigen Basis eine gesunde Prise Dreamrock. Samt trippig-vibrierendem Zwischenpart und dem längst überfälligen kathartischen Instrumentalausbruch scheinen die Howling Bells endlich die Katastase ihrer Sinnsuche erreicht zu haben. Die darauf folgenden "Gold Suns, White Suns" und "Sioux" erinnern im positiven Sinne an Ride oder auch die frühen Verve und stehen dem Quartett wirklich gut zu Gesicht. In "Betty Blue" trägt Sängerin Juanita Steins Stimme gar Nico'sche Züge. Zum Abschluss verfällt "Invisible" trotz verlockend sinistrem Einstieg wieder in Schema F und hinterlässt ein fades Gefühl im Magenraum. Schade.
Mit "The Loudest Engine" liefern die Howling Bells ein vielversprechendes Drittwerk ab. Die groß angekündigte spirituelle Katharsis bleibt jedoch aus. Zu beliebig rieseln die ersten Songs an einem vorüber. Mitunter ist die Divergenz zwischen der glockenklaren, uniformen Stimme und dem erdigen Sound der Band zu groß, was dazu führt, dass sie manchmal etwas entrückt dasteht. Selten leben sie die zweifelsohne vorhandenen trippigen Ansätze in letzter Konsequenz aus. Zum Ende hin gewinnt die Platte deutlich an Härte und Biss – das sind jene Momente, zu denen die Howling Bells ihrem Namen alle Ehre machen und die psychedelische Grundierung deutlich zum Vorschein kommt. Der reinkarnierten musikalischen Identität sind sie mit Langspieler Nummer drei dennoch ein großes Stück näher gerückt.
Label: Cooking Vinyl
In search of the spiritual roots: Howling Bells are developing with "The Loudest Engine" visible on the last step of metamorphosis but they can not perform.
"The Loudest Engine" is an album which is desert, emptiness and endless desire characterized by self-discovery - or something like at least comment on the Howling Bells on her new album. Such meditative root search a scene reminiscent of the Doors movie, in which Morrison and Co. - unleashed by Peyote - dancing in ecstasy over the wild dunes of California's outback. So the classic hippie scene. Clichés aside, however, a very promising approach that has already supported many a gem to light. As shamanic companions, however, then bring the Killers' bassist on board, something seems paradoxical, because - it seems - their sources lie buried somewhere between psychedelic dance floor and T. Rex, and are wrinkled like skin after three hours of water.
"The Loudest Engine" gives one the feeling that the engine of the machinery must first start until the Howling Bells have played in the form. Structurally, one can halve the disk into two parts. In the first, initiated by the bluesy garage-rockers "charlatan", with the glaring and repetitive Orgelriff Akkordgeschrammel can certainly arise desert feel, there are many very promising approaches. Including "The Wilderness", which jumps between Covet-pop vocal and instrumental parts and hypnotic siren-like B-part and the compositional talents of the band is impressively demonstrated. Nevertheless, the impression is not going to drive their listeners to think more on an arm's length. The explosive moment are signs of frequent, but often bogged down on the same energy level. The spark of passion necessary just will not really skip. At least until the eponymous "The Loudest Engine".
This is surprisingly grim around the corner and gives the basis of a healthy pinch of Knarzig Dream skirt. Velvet trippy-vibrating part and the intermediate long overdue cathartic instrumental break, the Howling Bells seem to have finally reached the Katastase their search for meaning. The subsequent "gold Suns, White Suns" and "Sioux" in a good way to remember the ride or early Verve, and the quartet are really good to see. In "Betty Blue" singer Juanita Stein's voice carries even Nico'sche trains. At the conclusion expires "Invisible" again despite tempting sinister entry in Table F and leaves a dull feeling in my stomach area. Too bad.
With "The Loudest Engine" from the Howling Bells provide a promising third album. The much heralded spiritual catharsis, however, remains out. Arbitrarily the first songs to trickle past one. Sometimes, the divergence between the bell-clear, uniform voice and the earthy sound of the band is too large, which means that they sometimes caught standing there. Rarely do they live from the trippy undoubtedly existing approaches in the final analysis. Toward the end, the plate is clearly gaining hardness and bite - those are the moments which make the Howling Bells to their name and the psychedelic primer considerably from the shadows. The reincarnated musical identity they have moved to number three long-players still a big step closer.
Working with their third label in as many albums, Howling Bells decamped to Nevada to record their latest long-player and have returned louder and – well, just louder, really. Unfortunately for Stein, Stein & Co., amping up the volume seems to have been an overburdened objective, as there is little else to inspire extra attention. Unmatched by bolder ingredients or much added flavour, at times The Loudest Engine falls flat. Periodically enjoyable nevertheless, this is a semi-successful collection of melodic, 70s-styled rock music, less gothic than the eponymous debut and less synth-infiltrated than 2009′s dissatisfying follow-up, Radio Wars.
While there is certainly a strong EP’s worth of material on show, producer Mark Stoermer (better known as bassist in The Killers) cannot give this full collection the lift it needs. Perhaps counter-intuitively, the Aussie foursome’s former association with Coldplay seemed to yield a more textured, shaded sound than achieved here, where too often the gloss dispels the gloom. This might be a harsh assessment, but an underwhelming effort from a once-loved band is disproportionately disappointing, compared to something that was always inherently unsound. At their best (the debut’s majestic ‘Setting Sun’ set the bar) the band can brood and beguile both at once but on The Loudest Engine they seem determined to operate in series, not parallel. This linearity also applies to the primitive percussion and bass that bug at intervals, most noticeably on third track ‘The Wilderness’ and its ill-advised extra outburst in particular.
Although the overall production, sound and songwriting feel streamlined and rather flat, this is still a record with peaks and troughs. Cutting opener ‘Charlatan’ is excitingly spiteful and the stomping ‘Into the Sky’ has an aura and attitude that is up there with their strongest output, while ‘Don’t Run’ and ‘The Faith’ are the most tuneful songs, the latter endowed with spook and spark. It is telling that, as the album’s softest, most acoustic cut, ‘Don’t Run’ is also the most attractive. Regrettably, the introduction of a seed-donating spaceman on the album’s nadir, ‘Gold Suns, White Guns’, provides only dubiously-produced, pseudo-celestial nonsense, all the worse for the Kate Bush affectation on the vocal. Yet there’s something in the cadence of penultimate song ‘Baby Blue’ that renews all the atmospheric promise and potential the group have had for so long.
Every bit as slick as it is often strident, The Loudest Engine finds this indisputably proficient band still chasing an aesthetic that doesn’t naturally suit. They’re not abrasive enough to convince as a fully-fledged rock outfit; rather a sort of jarring, neutered hybrid and, having spoken of wishing to avoid making the same record twice, the output seems designed to be different by numbers. Worse, Juanita Stein’s stunning voice – surely the most prized asset – is sometimes missing in the maelstrom of cacophony. Although the album doesn’t drag and their quality emanates, this solid set of songs will never match up to the debut. Howling Bells have more than earned our patience and show enough here to encourage its retention – the worry is whether they’re starting to run out of chances.
Opening with a Jefferson Airplane inspired riff, Howling Bells return with their third offering, The Loudest Engine. While it's nothing we haven't heard before, Howling Bells are a band who know what they're about and where they want to go - creating radio friendly 'brood-pop' with hints of Deb Harry and PJ Harvey nostalgia in the mix, thanks largely to the sexy pipes of Juanita Stein.
Labelled as anything from country-goth to melodic blues previously, the Sydney quartet take a more straight out pop/rock approach with this effort, with definitive percussive and rhythmic elements taking the fore on the majority of the record, melding beautifully with Stein's often orgasmic vocal delivery.
The Bells have delivered quite a varied follow up to 2009's Radio Wars, from the psychedelic nirvana of 'Into the Sky', to the driving, percussive bliss of 'Live On'. In an increasingly bustling femme-fronted industry, with so much talent to choose from, Stein stands out as a powerful frontwoman, with a unique throat that can wail with emotion as well as seduce and entice when needed.
A promising record displaying a real maturity, expect bigger and better things from a band that has now sewn their industry seed.