• howlin rain Magnificent Fiend (CD, £12.50)

    label: bird man

    REVIEW FROM THE LINE OF BEST FIT: Howlin Rain first got their break by virtue of being Ethan Miller from Comets on Fire’s side project. Originally melding the psychedelic drone of his main band, Miller used Howlin Rain as an outlet for his more ‘pop’ leanings. In this case the ‘pop’ in question is tight-trousered seventies good-time rock. While their debut album showed some promise, this follow up is less successful, leaning heavily on their influences, and producing a record that, though probably intended as a homage, comes across more as a cliché. I always find that a good rule of thumb with retro rock acts is to ask this question: If this record had come out in the era that it is paying homage to, would it be considered as one of that era’s best works? If the answer to this question is no, then the album cannot be considered a success. While Magnificent Fiend is a relatively fun listen, its retro wah wah guitars, squealing Hammond organ and raspy vocals and slinky southern grooves quickly wear thin. If you liked this kind of music, why would you choose to listen to this rather than, for example Steppenwolf, Lynyrd Skynyrd or even Argent? These organ drenched blues rock boogie pieces never quite reach the heights of those artists, seemingly happy to potter along like any other two bit bar band up and down the land, spewing cliché after cliché, with lyrics revolving around “the coming of a new age“, “mama have mercy on my soul” and generally being a hard workin’ man. Were it not for the hipster cred prescence of Miller, this record would be written off as a bad Black Crowes rip off. What frustrates me most about this record is that everyone involved is clearly a talented musician, yet they seem to be content to churn out this pompous mess of a record. As the record wears on, the track lengths get longer, and the solos more and more interminable. This over inflated ego rock belongs in the same era as drum solos that lasted a whole side of vinyl. People seem to have forgotten that the great thing about Led Zepplin was the way the riffs and the powerful vocal worked together, not the interminable solo’s that Page put out live, noodling away into obscurity. The last time rock music wandered down this avenue a generation turned its back and a little movement known as punk was born. As the filtered prog-pop synths flitter away, and the umpteenth drum roll splatters out of album closer ‘Riverboat’, its enough to make me want to go and dig out my old Minor Threat records. 42%


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