Review Summary: A guilty pleasure that you don’t have to feel guilty about.
Howl Griff are an oddity in the often shallow world of pop music. Harking back to the good old days of psychedelic rock, the transatlantic foursome possesses a uniquely multicultural dynamic that aids in making them stand out from the crowd. There is a variety to their music that is all but unmatched by their contemporaries, and after a few detailed listens to their maturely written tunes, it’s clear that this is a band that are probably deserving of more recognition. The mix of radio friendly indie pop and psychedelic rock is an interesting combination, and results in music that is both easy to get into while still possessing a bit more than your average NME poster boys. In that sense, Howl Griff’s third album Fragile Diamond
could be described as a guilty pleasure that you don’t have to feel guilty about.
Opener You Don’t Have To Leave On Your Own
immediately stamps its considerable authority over the listener, oozing psychedelic riffs over a classically rock ‘n’ roll rhythm. Lead singer Hywel Griffiths is well versed in the bluesier side of rock, and croons his way through the verses with virtual effortlessness. Harmonies in the chorus prevent the formula from repeating itself, and lend poppier catchiness to the tune. For many, this catchiness is the feature of Fragile Diamond
that propels it from a record fuelled by rock, into a poppier alternative. While it’s hard to disagree that Fragile Diamond
is littered with unforgettable choruses – the choppy rhythms and harmonious backing vocals of Runaround
spring to mind – it really isn’t a record that’s been built around the premise of being stuck in your head for days. For the most part it is, for lack of better words, just the band being who they want to be.
The band themselves have admitted to aiming for a pub rock sound in lieu of Dr Feelgood. As a whole, Fragile Diamond
is a bit too polished for a straight up pub rock feel, but the fuzzy guitar riffs and rawer vocal performance on Sharkfins in the Sky
definitely warrant a comparison with the early 70s rockers. More classic rock influences emerge as the album reaches its second half. She Walks on by the Flame
and the wonderfully titled FÜßßBÜKKËR
are much heavier tracks than anything previously, and add a further dynamic shift to the record. FÜßßBÜKKËR
in particular stands out, led off by a riff reminiscent of Led Zeppelin before morphing into a paranoid space rock effort, vocoder and all. There’s further Zeppelin inspiration in Rose of Emily
, which sees Griffiths give a good Robert Plant impression atop an infectious country-rock rhythm that Willie Nelson himself would be proud of.
Of course, as with any potential breakthrough album, there are missteps along the way. The ELO tinged International Dateline
is limp in its execution and doesn’t carry the same drive as the tracks that surround it. Similarly Puppet Operation Time
and Radio Revolution
are both devoid of any real inspiration and end up turning into paler imitations of superior songs. In both instances, the cheesy lyrics and less than effusive vocals are the major detractors, but both songs also feel entirely out of place in the track listing; a minor flaw, but one that could easily have been avoided. This said, Fragile Diamond
is still a strong enough album that by the time melodic closer Everything
has played out, it doesn’t really matter that a few songs are worth skipping. That the rest of the record carries them along in its stride is a testament to how good the good parts of Fragile Diamond
are. The only question that remains is what comes next?
Overall 3.5 Great