eMusic Review 0
Call it a reverse migration: When Australian upstarts Howling Bells traded in their colonist status for a permanent London address, they also underwent a sonic upgrade, eschewing their raw and rambling roots for a slicker, urban sound. The transition, as documented on Radio Wars — Howling Bells' second album and first bona fide stateside release — reflects these changing times, underscoring the dreariness of the U.K. as led by dour prime minister Gordon Brown. Lyrics like "To cry doesn't make it any easier / To laugh doesn't always feel right" (from "Ms. Bell's Song"/"Radio Wars Theme") are accented by an almost cinematic maelstrom of swirling guitars, while the percussive-heavy mix that dominates "How Long" stutters and stumbles like London's current foreclosure rate.
Producer Dan Grech-Marguerat (Tom Jones, Scissor Sisters, Kaiser Chiefs) sweetens the mix with plenty of electronic tricks, but, as always, the real stars of this traditional four-piece band are singer Juanita Stein and her guitar-slinging brother Joel. On songs like "Treasure Hunt" and "Golden Web," Juanita's shimmering vocals and Joel's Phil Spector-worthy six-string tidal wave combine in a powerhouse effort that pays homage to the Cure and owes a stylistic debt to lesser-known British Isles exports like Lush… read more »