Howling Bells Howling Bells (Newcomers) Howling Bells are representative of two long-awaited and positive developments in rock: the emergence of a slew of great girl-fronted bands and the oft-promised but rarely fulfilled arrival of decent bands from Down Under. In frontwoman Juanita Stein, the Bells have a throaty, power ballad-ready chanteuse who can hold her own against the best of the female rock hierarchy. Along with great debuts from the likes of the Like, the brilliant second album from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and resurgent interest in underground heroine Cat Power, Stein is showing that the girls really can cut it with the blokes. The Bells are also among a new breed of Australian bands who have severed the drip-feed that tethers almost all their compatriots to AC/DC and produced an album that rocks without making you cringe. They can count the prog-rock shambles of Wolfmother among their number. The only nod to their country of origin is their fondness for Birthday Party-like, neo-gothic, country-tinged doom, and that's a good thing. Thrown in for good measure are walls of chiming guitars, a lot of deathly references and some cracking good tunes. For comparisons, Stein's vocal style is reminiscent of the lovely Harriet Wheeler of woefully short-lived indie swooners the Sundays. One point of criticism - and it's something that many bands have been guilty of recently - is the tracklist order: Why are they putting their best songs at the end of albums? Cat Power did it with Love and Communication on The Greatest and now we have the Bells sticking their fantastic psychedelic opus Velvet Girl at the 11th spot on their debut.