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'Fragile Diamond'
(Dockrad Records)

Phil Kane

phil kane

howl griff fragile diamond

Looking at this lot you would be forgiven for thinking they had wandered out of the back woods of Montana. You would be wrong too. Formed in Wales in 2006, Howl Griff is a multi-national operation with members coming from Wales, N.W. England and the U.S., though all currently live in London.

The band released its debut, the Welsh language 'Howl Griff', in 2008 with a second English language album, 'The Hum', following in 2010. The band has become a particular favourite of BBC 6 Music where Lauren Laverne described the band as "bloody lush".

So, with the Laverne's potential kiss-of-death patronage and the qualities that give it a good chance of being a favourite of the broadsheet intelligentsia, is 'Fragile Diamond' any good; will it cut the mustard at Uncut and Mojo? Dunno, you'll have to wait and find out but there is absolutely no reason why they, and you, will not like it.

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The first thing you'll notice is that despite the fact that there is an alt lightness about it, there is actually nothing new here; 'Füssbükkër' nicks its riff from Zepp and the album closing 'Everything' echoes Clapton's take on 'Cocaine' for example. So whilst it is obvious the band has not been afraid to build upon old ideas, they do add enough of their own ideas to make this a genuinely worthwhile offering.

The multi harmony vocals that float throughout the album give it a vista all of its own. The songs roll along with a breezy altiness the Americans were doing in the late eighties/nineties and some have even compared it to Beach Boys or Brian Wilson's solo stuff.

The band like to mix up styles as well. 'Rose Of Emily' has a country breeziness that has some nice restrained fuzz slide weaving through it and a vocal that's reminiscent of latter day Robert Plant. 'She Walks On By The Flame' is about as heavy as it gets yet along with album opener 'You Don't Have To Leave On Your Own' retains the lightness of 70s American new wave and 'Runaround' has a nice subtle Tom Petty thing going on. 'Radio Revolution' is already a favourite drinking song at the band's acoustic nights and this mandolin driven version has a great traditional English folk feel to it without getting all hey nonny nonny.

The standout track has to be the Floydian 'Meet My Maker'. Apparently about vocalist and rhythm guitarist Hywel Griffiths' temporary blindness whilst driving in the fast lane of the M5, this track builds into a sultry cracker.

'Fragile Diamonds' is not without its duds. 'Sharkfins In The Sky' (originally to have been the title of the album) and 'Puppet Operation Time' are abysmal. Pub rock at its most mediocre; woefully inadequate.

Overall the album sounds effortlessly mellow though the combination of the song writing, musicianship and production ensures that the album's underlying current of unease pops through now and again. There are parts that remind you of the classic early seventies albums of Elton John and Clapton mixed with American pop punk of the late seventies/early eighties, whilst others hark back to the heyday of the seventies singer songwriter brigade but avoids their irritatingly fragile whimsy.

'Fragile Diamond' is unlikely to set the world alight. It has an arty otherness that means it will never be accepted by the herd, stuck in that twilight zone where music's uber fascistas hold albums dear; eternally damned to the hell of the critics end of year 'best of...' lists.




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