Howlin' Rain - Alligator Bride
Hailing from Oakland, California Howlin Rain are led by singer/guitarist Ethan Miller and they promise ‘high energy, good-times adventure music’ that’s ‘fuzzy around the edges’. It’s clear from the outset that Alligator Bride is the product of a group having fun and cutting loose, whilst making a straight-up, guitar-heavy, rock’n’roll record.
Strap yourself in as opener ‘Rainbow Trout’ starts off with a hint of ‘Midnight Rambler’, before shifting into a 70s era ZZ-Top boogie - and does that chorus have a hint of KISS? It's quite a ride, and by the time it comes to a halt in a squeal of feedback the adrenaline rush leaves the question, what’s next?
Although it begins with a clamour of squalling guitars, ‘Missouri’ is driven along by an omnipresent bass guitar and a big chorus that carries it through to its enthralling climactic ending - a three-way tussle between lead guitar, bass and drums – you pick a winner. Ironically, there's time to take a slight breather in ‘Speed’, but it's a false dawn, as the whole thing explodes into life with a dramatic finale. A similar card is played on ‘The Wild Boys’, which at eight minutes long is the centrepiece; a southern rock/blues odyssey that is epic in feel and grandiose in scope. It may not quite hit home, but the trip is a fun one.
Much more satisfying is the title track itself. Sure, ‘Alligator Bride’ tips its hat to Neil Young and Crazy Horse, but if you're making a record that celebrates all that is good in rock music, then it's impossible not to. Miller’s vocals are at their rawest and the song delivers the strongest emotional punch on the album – all wrapped up in driving guitars and an infectious tune.
By way of the quietest moment on the album, ‘In The Evening’ , it all comes to an end in fitting style, on eight-minute closer, 'Coming Down'. A full-on rollicking road-trip through a variety of influences, Alligator Bride manages to hit the sweet spot more often than not and bristles with energy; the sound of a band having an absolute blast.
Review by Jeremy Verrall