Music

Lupine Howl: The Bar at the End of the World

Devon Powers

Lupine Howl

The Bar at the End of the World

Label: Beggars Banquet
US Release Date: 2003-02-04
UK Release Date: 2002-10-14
Amazon
iTunes

Lupine Howl are over the top. Their moniker is peculiar, severe; their album titles, obscure and potentially off-putting (The Carnivorous Lunar Activities of Lupine Howl, anyone?). It's as if, at every moment, they're striving for extremes -- total excellence or utter shit, gold medal or the piss-stinking gutter. Ever since the band formed after Spiritualized's Jason Pierce went on a firing spree in 1999, guitarist Mike Mooney and bassist Sean Cook have been creating musical life from destruction -- or, perhaps, destroying the only things in music worth living for. (On their debut, they did this with ex-Spiritualized drummer Damon Reece, though John Mattock appears on their latest offering.)

True to form, The Bar at the End of the World is an all or nothing album. From its first moment, it is bombastic, pompous, obscure to the point of disturbing. Through and through, it hits dead on and completely misses, sometimes doing both in the same stroke. These wild oscillations of likeability, from any other artist, might be understood as crazed or indicative of stellar, but untamed, talent; from Lupine Howl, it's just par for the course. This is a band that wants you to feel something every time -- whether ecstasy or nausea, excitement or boredom.

Opening the album is the hyperbolic "A Grave to Go To", a blood-thick, guitar-heavy blazer that showcases Lupine Howl's penchant for psych-influenced, soulful rock. Starting like a runner out of the gate, the guitars unfurl in spooky riffs followed by equally dark bass lines. Cook spits out the lyrics like they're poisoned venom -- the story told about a missing girl whose is suspected to be an unidentified corpse. Sure, the topic's a bit gross, but the song is fantastic -- huge, confident, ambitious.

After this searing beginning, the album slows down considerably, never again catching the momentum of "A Grave to Go To" and often deadening into a dirge. The immediately following "Don't Lose Your Head" is a spaced-out shuffle, sounding as blitzed as the narration: "I never really had much money / But what I did have I spent on cocaine / I may be lost but I'm not worried / Ain't life strange". It's quite a letdown from the previous number, and not just because the tempo has been emasculated -- the pace also shows off the hollow, sometimes painfully awful, lyrics. It's the kind of song that might sound so deep to someone who, as Cook sings, is "so high". The clever closing lyric ("We all do things we hate to get things we don't need") hardly makes up for what is just a dull song.

The rest of the album stays on the slow side, with mixed degrees of success. "The Pursuit of Pleasure" is a sultry, sticky mess of a song, its opening bars mimicking what you might expect to hear as you step foot into a sleazy bordello somewhere off the interstate. It stays that way until the climactic, hell-on-wheels chorus: "I just wanna / Control my lover" slithering seductively out of Cook's mouth, the volume overcharged, the drums cacophonous and gigantic. It's not musical rocket science, but it is gorgeously drenching melodrama. It ends, with splendid pomp, on Cook wailing, "I wanna feel alive", atop ballistic six-string fury. But when this theater translates into something less charged, it just sounds silly. Like the next song: "Gravity's Pull". Barren guitar work and flabby strings render the song a flaccid, vacant lullaby.

One thing I can say for Lupine Howl -- they always try. As much as they work within well-tred Britrock traditions, their haunted outlook on life tarts up even the most standard of melodies. Granted, it doesn't always work, but this reviewer remains faithful that someday, one of their albums will stun. Either that, or scare the hell out of you.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image