Howlin' Rain - Howlin' Rain

"In Miller's own words this is music designed "to beat the steering wheel of your van to or sing along with while drinking whiskey in the bathtub on a Saturday night with your dog." "

Howlin' Rain - Howlin' Rain


 


Right - this album is a collaboration between Comets On Fire's Ethan Miller and Sunburned Hand of the Man's John Maloney. In Miller's own words this is music designed "to beat the steering wheel of your van to or sing along with while drinking whiskey in the bathtub on a Saturday night with your dog." That should probably tell you all you need to know and this is certainly an unashamed rock album in the southern gothic style. The songs feature plenty of banjo and wig-out guitar and the lyrics concentrate on dirt, blood, bones, booze and dust. It's the music you'd hope that drunken, denim clad, sideburn-sporting men rocking out by a dilapidated garage on a desert highway would make.


 


The album opens in laidback fashion with Death Prayer in Heaven's Orchard. Some of the Southern rock staples are in place – twanging guitars and a straining throaty growl – and they are joined later on in the track by screaming slabs of white noise. These, however, are as nothing compared to those on Calling Lightening with a Scythe. It kicks off as a gentle honky-tonk number with banjo playing and brushed drums. Hell, it even has a good-ol'-boys sing-along chorus. But about a third way through everything goes to shit. The song is swamped by what can only be described as a guitar massacre. I imagine that you have to be a really good player to generate such a fucking awful racket. It's great of course. And then it stops and the song continues as though nothing has happened, in much the same way that conversations at family parties barely skip a beat despite the aged aunt in the corner cracking one off every now and again. Roll on the Rusted Days is the album track that could probably make it onto the radio and it even features a sax blasting away. The Hanging Heart is a bit of a beast. A discordant guitar kicks it off at full pelt and the lyrics are shouted as loudly as possible. Heck, you might be thinking, there's another nine minutes of this one. But the song quietens down for the chorus (it couldn't really get any louder) and whilst it all kicks off again once the chorus is over the song is eventually tamed. Well, for a little while.


 


The album loses its way slightly in the middle. Show Business doesn't really go anywhere and Indians, Whores and Spanish Men of God, whilst full of the necessary yelping, squealing sax and bonkers lyrics, does go on a bit. In Sand And Dirt however is a great track. A funky beat, guitar and prepared piano set the scene (it sounds like the same one Califone used on the title track of Heron King Blues). The guitar sound is still ravaged (and becomes increasingly so) but the track also features rather sweet harmonies. The final track, The Firing of the Midnight Rain, actually features a guitar without any distortion. Well, for most of the track anyway. And that's it – eight tracks that blast away in a ferociously uncomplicated manner.


 


The danger with these kinds of collaborations is that sometimes you suspect the people involved are having more fun making it than you are having listening to it. I'm happy to report that this isn't the case with Howlin Rain: you really do get what you are promised, a hugely enjoyable blast of balls to the floor rock music.


 


Words: Christopher Dawson.