The second album from Howling Bells is something of a mixed bag. Lead track Treasure Hunt reminds me of Curve, with its gothic female vocals, the epic sounding guitars and the way the drums build up the landscape. Following that is Cities Burning Down, which is suitably broody and windswept, although the tune is not quite there. It Ain’t You and Nightingale, while blessed with the beautiful vocals, are hindered by the fact they are mere wisps of tunes. Worse still they hint at an epic beauty that is never reached, like they shot for the stars, but gave up half way there. It’s one time I’m really trying to like an album, especially after the promise of the first two tracks, but struggling to get the band to meet me halfway.
Past the midway point Let’s Be Kids has a shimmering melancholy to it, while Ms. Bell’s Song (Radio Wars Theme) is delightful in its weirdness, starting as a beautiful restrained pop song before descending into futuristic strobes and a hymnal chant. Golden Web is another song revelling in being different to most of the album, the tune clicks along and again the voice is there, sounding ghostly and trading parts of a chorus line with male vocals, the offset making a delightful harmony. Lead single Into The Chaos is the business though, a maelstrom of Throwing Muses style kookiness and gothic beauty. It soars and is the epic they so badly wanted and needed. Digital Hearts is another cracking tune, plinky piano and a much more straight forward tune but one full of cool melodies. How Long concludes proceedings and is mournful and graceful. It’s an album you need to stick with, but it’s worth it if you do.
Radio Wars is released by Independiente on March 2nd. A second single, Cities Burning Down, is out now.
Howling Bells myspace is here