Published by METRO
So I’m sat with a few friends outside a tea house that’s hidden down a West End backstreet. The year is 2006. Clutching our hot drinks, we speak over the sound of the rain bouncing off the plastic shelter we’re huddled underneath.
‘How were Placebo?’ I’m asked. ‘Ah, not too bad. The support was so much better, though,’ is my response. ‘Howling Bells, they were called.’ The next five minutes consist of me becoming increasingly animated as I elaborate. Amid a few erms, sort ofs and you knows, I explain how the sound of this indie rock outfit is above all progressive.
‘It’s based on steady rhythms and hypnotic guitar riffs,’ I continue, ‘and it’s complemented by the female singer’s soft and charming vocals.’ ‘Their set list featured a mixture of pacy songs, euphoric numbers and powerful ballads – yet the transition between them was seamless,’ I reflect. ‘The sound they retained throughout clearly had origins in experimental jam sets, but it had now been rehearsed into a fluidity tailor made for indie and alt.rock lovers like us,’ I add.
‘It was really enthralling stuff,’ is my conclusion. Looking down at the table, I see our mugs have been refilled and our ashtray emptied during my spiel. I look puzzled. ‘We didn’t want to interrupt you. You wanted more tea, right?’ someone asks me.
Wow, previewing this concert takes me way back. All those years ago, my acclaimed Australian four-piece were touring their eponymous debut album – which included stand-out tracks such as Low Happening, In The Woods and Across The Avenue – and went on to play a string of festivals the following summer.
Howling Bells are now on their third record, The Loudest Engine, which was released earlier this month. Featuring the single Into The Sky, and produced by Killers bassist Mark Stoermer, it’s been billed as a return to form. More importantly, the bedazzling Juanita Stein continues to provide vocals that justify parallels with Kate Bush and Alison Goldfrapp, and the band’s distinctive sound remains.
The night following that afternoon in 2006, I dragged my friends along to a Howling Bells gig at Cathouse. They all subsequently bought the album – one ordered it online, then, after refusing to wait the three days it would take to arrive, went to Zavvi instead – and my work was done.
So if there’s ever a band I should be previewing, it’s this one. I’m afraid it’s you and I in that tea house today, and I’ll bet you a cup of yogi chai that you’ll enjoy this gig.