Lupine Howl: Bar At The End Of The World
The Bristol based band Lupine Howl released 'The Bar At The End Of The World' in October of last year, so it's not "exactly" the newest of releases. The quality of the music and the vivid spirit of the album, however, makes this recording deserving of a review at any time.
Lupine Howl formed in 1999 after its original members, Sean Cook (Bass, vocals), Mike Mooney (Guitar)and Damon Reece (Drums), were fired from Spiritualised after standing up for themselves and wanting to be paid some long overdue money.
The band got straight down to work and put out four singles and a debut album 'The Carnivorous Lunar Activities Of...' 'in quick succession.
‘The Bar At The End Of The World' is their second album. There have been line-up changes between this album and the first one. Sean and Mike Mooney are now joined by Jon Mattock (Drums) and Alex Lee (Guitar) ,with Damon still making the occasional appearance.
The album is sold in a 3 part paper box which, when you unfold it,exposes a painting. According to Sean it is loosely based on The Myth of Sisyphus* (The Greek Myth is in this particular case is meant as a metaphor for life, which is simultaneously depressing and liberating). On the other side you find an attractive photo of the band standing by a bar welcoming you into their world. The actual CD is all black, which ties with the attitude of the music as well.
This whole trip to ‘the end of the world' starts with sound of a mobile trying to catch the 'howl' signal. A second later guitars kick off on the first song 'Grave To Go To' . The song is of all the 10 tracks on the album the most energetic. Sean's voice is driven by pure spontaneity and conviction, and fights its way through the raw sound of guitars and drums.
The following track, 'Don't Lose Your Head' (released as a single in 2001), is more laid back. The music turns to be slightly spacey with guitars sounding off into the background. 'Can You Forgive Me' extends on this even more with its jingly sound.
‘Gravity’s Pull’ introduces the violin for the first time. The violin is combined with the lyric "I may be confused but I'm clearly fucked/ I used to get so low", and conjure up images of redemption and freedom.
My favourite piece is 'The Centre Of Universe'. The song begins with the dark and enigmatic sound of tinkling guitars. "Let me complicate everything/ Will the world turn without me?" asks Sean with a calm but seductive voice.
"Can't you feel there is something moving in your veins/ Can't you feel there is something something..." Sean continues rising his voice with the volume of the music, which builds up to a complete explosion. "Come to me, turn the tide, refine the senses/ Come to me, turn the tide" he thunders. The whole song has an intimidating character, but at the same time it’s one you just can't resist falling for.
Towards the end of the album the music softens down further, however, but never loses its power. There are also many sound effects on the album, such as what sounds like the beating of a heart, at the beginning of 'Signing Off'. These develop further the album’s inspiring nature.
'All I Can Do', the last song, is gentle and has a weary feeling that gives you the impression that you are crossing the line between mortality and death.
"And can you please explain because I don't know/ and is there anything left for me?/ I don't know/ I don't know/ I don't know" sings Sean in its last lines. The album and its music drifts away for good.
'The Bar At The End Of The World' is well composed album, artfully balancing energy with calmness. Its matter-of-a fact acceptance of life and death and the great depth to its lyrics also make it stand out. For all those reasons I'm not taking this album off my stereo in any hurry.
*Sisyphus was consigned by the Gods to perpetually roll a rock up a hill only to watch it roll down the other side, thereby forcing him to begin the whole absurd process again.
A Grave to go to
Don't Lose Your Head
Can You Forgive Me
The Pursuit of Pleasure
Centre of the Universe
All I Can Do