The Saints

Howling

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For the first time in over a decade, gargantuan-voiced singer Chris Bailey revives the famed Saints name to make a rock & roll record after a string of solo releases, the previous two of which were beautiful, melancholic, and wonderfully depressed, yet hushed-gilded confessional. And unlike the last Saints outing, 1988's OK but badly over-produced Prodigal Son, Bailey is long past trying to craft a more guitar rawk sound to crack an American market that no longer knows he exists. Howling is much louder, edgy, and nervous. Also, unlike the 1979-1988 Saints, Bailey here eschews his old mates for an new lineup, making this Saints Mach III. The results are mixed, especially at first, but at their best are crackling and exciting. And with repeated listens, Bailey's knack for a well-developed, melodic tune is revealed, as are a couple of thunderous, paranoid, wild, and totally cracked songs that sound like Bailey has turned psychopathic. Three acoustic-based tracks are also a good touch, revisiting the sumptuous territory of Savage Entertainment and 54 Days. Besides, any record that makes Bailey howl as of old, unlike his '90s solo work, is bound to have one revelatory moment after another, reminding one of the explosive voice that once bellowed and yowled its way through such intense heart-pounders as "(I'm) Stranded," "This Perfect Day," "Know Your Product," "Casablanca," "Ghost Ships," and "Just Like Fire Would." One senses Bailey can ultimately do better than this, that he can find the spark of complete brilliance that visited not only his Kuepper-era '70s heights, but his twin '80s masterpieces, A Little Madness to Be Free and All Fool's Day. But, like The Monkey Puzzle and Out in the Jungle, this is a no-nonsense kick-bucket rocking record, and a fine, unexpected surprise at that.

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