Of all B.R.M.C.’s albums, Howl is my absolute favorite. For the most part, the album is acoustic – in part because of drummer Nick Jago’s problems with drug abuse and subsequent trips to rehab. But the other reason they went after this sound was revealed by bassist/vocalist Robert Been (the vocals are shared by Been, and guitarist/ex-Brian Jonestown Massacre member, Peter Hayes), in an interview with Glide Magazine. He made the point that a lot of the time when bands play a set for a radio station, it’s typically an acoustic set (there’s not a lot of time or space to be setting up drums and microphones). He said that they’d been writing songs that were more acoustic with heavy Americana/gospel/and folk influences for a while, and they decided that after their second album, they would focus more on this new sound.
One of the questions I had about the name of the album, was whether it had any reference to the Ginsberg poem (Howl). Again, from the Glide Magazine interview, Been answers:
“It wasn’t necessarily that particular poem in general, well in general it was the beat counterculture, that was what it’s about. Once again, just kind of asking the question – “Where is it? How is it going to be heard? And who is going to be involved in it?” I don’t know what the deal is, there is mainstream and there is a certain way that’s sold that is really strange to me – it’s a hard line to walk to get something heard the right way.”
I love just about every track on this album, but the reason I love Howl is because of the lyrics. Here is a sampling (first verse and chorus):
You try so hard to be cold
You try so hard to not show
I give you nothing to doubt, and you doubt me
I give you all that I have, but you don’t see
Now I know that my eyes must close here
Every word seems to feel like you don’t care
But I know that you’re so confused and afraid
I just want to be one true thing that don’t fade
I don’t wanna give up tomorrow
I just can’t understand why we’re going on
As far as the instrumentation goes, I think the church organ and timpani at the beginning are an interesting touch. The organ brings in a definite “gospel” feel. When the back up vocals come in after the second chorus (3:35), it sounds almost like a full choir supporting the vocals. I really love the bass line that comes in almost as a counter-melody at 1:23, and 2:14. It’s always nice to hear a bass player take more of a leading role in a band, especially when he is also singing.