Howling Bells: Radio Wars


3 out of 5
  1. Howling Bells
  2. Radio Wars
  3. Independiente
  1. 2009

Howling Bells raised some eyebrows with their debut album's antipodean take on melodramatic gothic guitar pop. The follow-up tinkers with the formula, adding synths to the swooping chord changes beneath Juanita Stein's breathy singing. Stein is the band's trump card, and their achilles heel. Just as Louise Wener was in Sleeper, she's the sexy face in front of three anonymous-looking men: the definite focus on stage. Sadly, though, she's not much of a lyricist - "I don't want to hear about your policies," she admonishes politicians in Let's Be Kids, a plea for innocence that would embarrass a 12-year-old with its lack of sophistication - and her thin voice has no range: you want wistful? Here's kittenish. You want angry? Here's kittenish. You want passionate? Here's kittenish. The album's first half conceals those weaknesses beneath dramatic arrangements, but the law of diminishing returns sets in by the midway point.

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Pop review: Howling Bells: Radio Wars

This article was first published on at 00.01 GMT on Friday 27 February 2009. It appeared in the Guardian on Friday 27 February 2009 on p13 of the Features section. It was last updated at 00.07 GMT on Friday 27 February 2009.

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