Howling Bells @ Classic Grand 11-03-09

March 16, 2009

HOWLING BELLS
Classic Grand, Glasgow, March 11 * *

Back in 2006 Howling Bells delivered one of the albums of the year. It won over critics and, after extensive touring, a loyal following. But if the mixed reviews for recently-released Radio Wars are anything to go on, they may well have succumbed to second album syndrome. Tonight was a chance for the Sydney quartet to redress the balance, a chance to make new songs work live, and win over the unconvinced. Sadly they failed on all fronts.
It was hard not to notice the lack of atmosphere in the venue as the band trooped on stage. The crowd seemed subdued, as did the band after opening numbers Treasure Hunt and It Ain’t You failed to provoke much of a response, both songs building to nothing and receiving only patchy applause.
Darker, less focused and lacking the melodic charm that made their debut a critical success, there were few positives to be taken from the new material aired. Most of it sank without trace in a sea of atmospheric guitar and weak vocals, while even past favourites Setting Sun and particularly Low Happening lacked the expected punch.

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