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Radio Wars (Limited Edition) [Limited Edition]

Howling Bells, Howling Bells Audio CD
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
Price: £11.40 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
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Product details

  • Audio CD (2 Mar 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Limited Edition
  • Label: Independiente
  • ASIN: B001PSQGJU
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 155,329 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Treasure Hunt
2. Cities Burning Down
3. It Ain't You
4. Nightingale
5. Let's Be Kids
6. Ms. Bell's Song/Radio Wars Theme
7. Golden Web
8. Into the Chaos
9. Digital Hearts
10. How Long
Disc: 2
1. Setting Sun
2. Wishing Stone
3. Cities Burning Down
4. Treasure Hunt
5. Nightingale
6. Into the Chaos
7. Radio Wars Theme

Product Description

BBC Review

Juanita Stein and her trio of impossibly beautiful bandmates return with an album so formless it's barely recognisable as the product of one of the decade's most promising debutante bands.

Sydney's Howling Bells were one of the underrated treasures of 2006. Their self-titled debut album of haunting waltzes, country balladry, epic ambience and all-out indie rock was drowned in the swamp of bands emerging in the wake of Arctic Monkey mania, despite extensive touring with the likes of The Killers and Placebo. Their failure to gain notoriety thankfully prevented the possibility of being forgotten in the midst of that swamp, as was the case with so many of the new acts that year, and this second outing can be looked upon as their second chance at making a first impression.

Despite uprooting from their homeland and firmly ensconcing themselves in London life, Howling Bells' first record evoked Australia both in its sound and its imagery. It was a collection of tracks individual from each other and strong both standing alone and in amalgamation. Unfortunately, Radio Wars is the antithesis.

Much of the material here is so directionless it's simply bland. Opener Treasure Hunt has the same echoes of shoegaze that helped to make the debut so enchanting, but lacks any semblance of a tune. It Ain't You and Let's Be Kids drudge and drag through their 3 minute durations, seeming twice as long and thrice as laborious.

Ms Bell's Song brightens the outlook, albeit only slightly, with cute xylophone and a psychedelic run-on named Radio Wars Theme, inspired by an oddly behaving radio which went on to provide the album with its motif and its moniker.

Singles Into The Chaos and Cities Burning Down are the better tracks, but tellingly would have been the weakest if included on the debut's playlist. It seems the quartet's decision to produce this album 'democratically' - each member writing their contribution separately - has resulted in an ill-fitting and impotent collection. The second chance may well have been squandered. --Keira Burgess

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing follow up 18 Mar 2009
By Richy
Format:Audio CD
Having seen the howling bells live 4 times and being a big fan of the first album i was eagerly anticipating Radio Wars. However, i was left somewhat underwhelmed when this arrived in the post. It is a 'grower', that is for certain. But then it could only get better considering my opinion of it after the first listen. After 5 or 6 plays i no-longer feel embaressed to be listening to it. Just very unexcited by it. They've ditched the brilliant country/gothic sounds that made the first so interesting and instead have gone for...well. I don't know how to describe it. slightly trashy pop? Maybe thats a little harsh. But it certainly isn't an interesting proposition.

There are some proper 'tunes' on it. 'Watchtower' is actually a very good opening track, whilst 'Digital Hearts' had hints of PJ Harvey to it (which at least to me is a plus point). 'Cities burning down' is a very good track as well. The original in my opinion is better but this song is one of the few not to suffer from a 'bigger and poppier' sound. 'Ms Bells Song' is bit of a gem-the only track that really could have slotted nicely into the first album. But there are some real blanks on the album as well. 'It ain't you' almost sounds like its going to develop into something melodic but then it literally goes nowhere. 'Golden web' is funny. Not in a good way. 'How Long' tries to bring some emotion to the end of the album but really does fail to deliver like 'Into the woods' and 'I'm not afraid' on the first album. 'Let's be kids' is just awful. I know thats a strong word, but if you listen to that song you'll understand.

The second disc is ok. The live performances are better then the album versions. But with only 7 songs it's over quicker then you'd hope.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Casualty Of Conflict 23 Mar 2009
By Gannon
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
What made the eponymous debut great was its menacing blend of mildy gothic pop-rock and hints at alt.country. The debut was brooding and haunting, the sound was PJ Harvey enjoying a knees up with Josh Homme, the Cocteau Twins spinning in the background. In retrospective brutality, that debut has not aged well and sounds a little MOR in comparison to some of today's experimental and challenging luminaries. Yet, stand out tracks still stand out. The bombastic induce yawning indifference.

Radio Wars does not differ from this template. All that has changed is the ratio of pop to rock. Where previously Stein convulsed with meaning now she coos passively. Like the debut, Radio Wars' stand out moments appeal. `Cities Burning Down' welcomes back the trademark menace, the latter half of the title track is sinister melody embodied. `Into The Chaos' picks up where `Low Happening' left off, but is neutered in comparison.

The weaker tracks on the album are sadly bland to the point of banality. `Nightingale' is a cadent pop-rock piece, delivered lethargically. `Let's Be Kids' reintroduces the shoe-gazy element of the debut, vocally recalling the Cocteau Twins afresh, but it's a pity these lyrics are so trite. The musical backdrop is frustrating indie Muzak. `Golden Web' is an inadvisable and wistful duet, which embraces lost love against a spider and fly analogy.

Radio Wars is not a bad album, let that be clear. In fact, it is a lot better than initial listening suggests. The good does indeed outweigh the bad, but the so-so outweighs both. The problem with promise is sustainability. It is rare to achieve commercial and critical success and Radio Wars appears to have aimed to please the former rather than the latter. Only time will tell if the radio bites.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not the greatest 4 Feb 2014
Format:MP3 Download|Verified Purchase
I like the band, but other albums from this group are better and more interesting. Nice addition to my collection though.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Howling Bells - Radio Wars 17 Mar 2009
Format:Audio CD
It has been a long three years since Juanita Stein and co unleashed their debut, and Radio Wars arrives having suffered delays and the band label difficulties. The signs weren't particularly encouraging when Into The Chaos slipped out last year, the track lacked the atmosphere and drive of their live performance. This was a common criticism of much of the debut too, there was a few great ideas but when stretched over a long-player it seemed a little one-paced and drawn out. A similar underwhelming feeling pervades Radio Wars, despite it's shorter length. In fact all the pluses and drawbacks of the debut apply to this second effort. The good tracks (Cities Burning Down, Nightingale) are great; soaring guitar lines and wistful vocals. However some of the record feels forced and leaden, not helped by some poor lyrics (check Let's Be Kids as a case in point) and uninventive rhythms. That said, the good songs outweigh the bad and this is a solid album - it just needs a little bit more of the excitement so prevalent at their live shows.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Album 16 Mar 2009
By Paul VINE VOICE
Format:Audio CD
I've played this album about a dozen times now.

At first I wasn't so sure whether I liked it as much as their debut. It's certainly more radio-friendly than its predecessor (the irony of the title isn't lost on me!) and the production feels a hundred-times better too.

As it is then, I've grown to love this album. Melody-wise, it hits the spots in all the right places and there are some fabulous guitars & harmonies throughout. I wondered if Howling Bells would continue to use the services of Ken Nelson (Coldplay) for the production on this album after his mediocre production of their debut and I'm so glad they didn't. This sophomore album feels so much more widescreen in its sound than their debut.

There are some wonderful gems on here, not least the title-track itself, but also 'Into The Chaos' and the fabulous 'Cities Burning Down'.

This special-edition is a nice package too. A hardback book featuring two CDs, the album plus a nice second disc of live material spanning tracks from both albums. A nice touch.
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