I think that for music to appeal there needs to be a blend of the familiar and the novel. It's important that it's predictable enough that you can appreciate it, but there must be something different in order to keep you interested. Howling Bells have disrupted this delicate balance on 'Radio Wars', and for this reason - unfortunately - the album just doesn't quite work. Melodies are often twisted away from their natural arc in an effort for differentiation, but the search for new ideas might have been better fulfilled, say, in the harmonies, where the entire shape of the song wouldn't be affected.
This is a bit of a deal-breaker, which is a shame really, because otherwise, 'Radio Wars' is a strong effort. London-based Aussies Howling Bells' dark cinematic rock sound works, and works consistently. There aren't too many bells and whistles - the fine print says that there are strings and brass, but they're mostly assimilated into the guitar-bass-drums - and there's enough reverb for a rich sound, but not so much it grates. Juanita Stein's vocals are beautiful, although I have the feeling that she's caught in the contradiction-of-cool that is trying a little too hard to sound like she's not trying, and as such her voice doesn't soar as it could. It Ain't You and Digital Hearts are the strongest tracks, and hint at what might have been.
There's a lot of hype behind 'Radio Wars', and if you're into the atmospheric rock thing, there's probably enough to keep you pleasantly amused as a soundtrack to some other activity. But for my twenty-odd-dollars, it's not strong enough to stand alone.