Howling Bells, Howling Bells
Music from a different place — beyond rock, beyond comparison.
This is the curse of the female vocalist: endless comparisons to Polly Harvey, Siouxsie Sioux, Kate Bush and Hope Sandoval. Undeniably, though, there are echoes of all these in the astonishingly clear, dextrous tones of Juanita Stein, who fronts Howling Bells alongside her lead guitarist/brother, Joel. But this Australian band's sense of otherness is quite unique. The rumblin 'riffs of "Broken Bones" and "Blessed Night" motor unswervingly across "rock" terrain, tracking back through The Jesus & Mary Chain to T. Rex and beyond. Elsewhere, FX exploration from the Sonic Youth/My Bloody Valentine era prevails, and there are loping Tom Waitsy moments ("A Ballad for the Bleeding Hearts") as well. So far, so graspable. But as implied by the album's sepia-toned cover painting, depicting 18th-century geezers scaling a tree to gather owls 'eggs, Ms. Stein sings from a different place — beyond rock, beyond comparison. Howling Bells, then, introduces her to that chick superleague as equal, not pretender.