Ok, let’s get the BS out of the way first – Howl Griff are Welsh – get over it! Howl Griff are also very, very good. ‘Fragile Diamond’ is their third album and they have built on the previous two albums by dropping the Welsh language and developing their songwriting to a place that is as good as anyone around today.
There isn’t a duff number or a filler on the album and there are moments that take me to a West-Coast/Psychedelic place that very few bands can manage.
The album opens with ‘You Don’t Have To Leave On Your Own’, a fine poppy chat-up song that has a great melody and organ riff as well as a powerful chorus and a closing guitar solo that hits a great spot. That leads into ‘Fragile Diamond’ and now we are into West Coast tunefulness and harmonies. The fuzzed bass line that opens ‘Sharkfins In The Sky’ and the farfisa organ sound is wonderful – a throwback to the sixties and I can almost hear The Small Faces or The Jam. ‘Radio Revolution’ features mandolin and ‘Russian’ chants and ‘Runaround’ is yet more great pop. ‘Meet My Maker’ has a back story to when Hywel Griffiths suddenly went blind on the M4 at high speed and a huge and monumental sound with vaulting harmonies and great melodies - one of the great tracks of 2012 I think. So much of the album has audible links back to the best pop of the sixties and the musical experimentation of the time – little things like the almost hidden clarinet in the heart of ‘Puppet Operation Time’, an otherwise sublime piece of strangeness completed with a delicate touch.
They can play harder as well but the real strength in the album lies in its poppy sensibilities – good pop music is not easy to achieve but Howl Griff manage it effortlessly. The album closer is probably the strongest track on the album – Gary Parkinson’s guitar holding the melody and heartbeat bass from Steve Kennedy bringing the song forward with a solid anchor from Nick Moore’s drums – and sublime harmonies in the chorus.
This is an album that I know I will go back to time and again, great music with heart and mind and Welsh to boot.