Howling Bells : The Loudest Engine
The third album is always the acid test, and Howling Bells latest effort, The Loudest Engine, is an intended further step away from their previous two. Described by the band as their "grown up" record, it moves further away from the raw, more rock 'n' roll, vibe of their earlier releases, towards a more abstract and psychedelic '70s thing. I feel like I'm sitting on a rug at Woodstock, with a furrow on my brow, and my arm around my slightly unhinged soul mate. There's continuity with the songs, which makes for a well-produced album, but it's harder to pick out the instant winners, unlike Low Happening and Blessed Night from their 2006 debut. At risk of being the guy "livin' in the past, man!", I feel like they've gone off and joined a cult where it's against the rules to have fun.
I like Charlatan. It's the first track, and a slap to the face of a dirtbag trickster - "You steal light from the sun/You're not a man/You're a beautiful, beautiful charlatan." It's got a good groove, with heavy bass and some nice riffs. The second, Into the Sky follows a similar route, but then the rest of the songs drift away, like the acid just kicked in at song three of the set list. Secrets is pretty cool with some smooth base lines. It smolders and makes me feel like I'm away in an isolated wood cabin, and my life is in danger.
The new songs focus more heavily on the lyrical stories by bringing the vocals well out in front of the mix, floating on a much heavier psychedelic haze. Howling Bells are a class act and my lack of enthusiasm is probably more me than them - I think this one was a bit over my head.
BY MICKY RENNIE
Best Track: Charlatan
If You Like These, You'll Like This: PJ HARVEY, NICK CAVE, THE VELVET UNDERGROUND,
In A Word: Exploratory