Neil Condron

12:36 16th February 2006

Coming on stage to a near empty room at Liverpool’s student union is the sort of experience that forms the rites of passage for many a fledgling band.  Not that it makes any difference to Edinburgh’s The Common Redstarts – to Jordan Croan, this could well be a sell-out gig in Madison Square Gardens, as he leads his young comrades Strummer-like into ballsy opener ‘Dance The Haze In’.  It seems to be a musical rallying call as indie kids from adjoining rooms start pouring in, eager to see where this riotous rock and roll is coming from. 

Forthcoming single ‘Killing Street’ ram-raids its way into these curious ears, ‘Too Drunk To Fight’ swaggers with Sham 69-esque wrecklessness, while ‘Break Up’ is the sound of The Small Faces gone rockabilly.  Not without their flaws (the rough-arse ska of ‘McFly’ brings to mind Desmond and his barrow in the marketplace), TCR certainly land a heavy blow on the jaw of this now-bustling room.  The likes of Kasabian and The Ordinary Boys (and, to a more dubious extent, Gary Glitter) have proved that gangs and rock ‘n’ roll go together like Stella Artois and broken noses, and TCR could well be the next in this illustrious line. 
 
Australia’s Howling Bells couldn’t come from a place further away than the support act, and we’re not just talking in a geographical sense.  The space they occupy lies between the sultriness of P.J. Harvey (‘Broken Bones’), the gentle melancholia of Mazzy Star (‘The Bell Hit’) and the dark psychedelia of My Bloody Valentine (current single ‘Wishing Stone’).  And they’re annoyingly good looking to top it off, with singer Juanita clearly exciting some of the beered-up males in attendance. 
 
Country seems to be the bedrock on which The Howling Bells build their weird and wonderful sound, especially so on ‘A Ballad For The Bleeding Hearts’, a lament whose rocking chair-on-the-porch miserabilism perfectly mirrors the moody magnificence of its title.  Recording with Coldplay henchman Ken Nelson at the nearby Parr Street Studios, they dedicate closer ‘Low Happening’ to ‘everyone at Parr Street’ as well as to, intriguingly, one hit wonder and Celebrity Big Brother über-bitch Pete Burns. Yes; it would seem even Pete Burns - the man spent his January engaging in a one-man spite campaign before the eyes of the nation - has got time for The Howling Bells. Preston; take note.