Sometimes referred to as "one of the best known unknown bands," Australian indie poppers the Cannanes started their adventures in the underground music scene in 1984. Though active at all times, Howling at All Hours is the group's first major release since 2002's Trouble Seemed So Far Away. Almost 30 years into their trek, the ragged charm of the band's early cassette releases and ramshackle K Records albums is still there in spirit, but a sense of grown-up confidence and ease is more prevalent throughout Howling at All Hours. Ever eclectic, the Cannanes don't stick to one mode, choosing instead to dip into electronic dabbling on songs like the haunting "I Woke Up in Hargreaves Mall" and the minimal thump of "Is It Because I'm Bleak" but staying true to raw guitar rock from the same school that produced the Go-Betweens and Yo La Tengo on "Melting Moments." Production is stellar and crisp, a far cry from the Cannanes' home-recorded beginnings but more revealing of their many idiosyncracies. Vocalists Frances Gibson and Stephen O'Neil both have less than trained voices, but artful expression and delivery trump any issues with tunefulness, especially on the melancholic twee singalong "Absence" or any of Gibson's detours into sung-spoken poetry, such as the beautifully evocative walk through a dream on the second half of "Stephanie," the Velvet Underground-esque album opener. Like many of the acts that survived long past the early days of indie rock, the Cannanes have crafted their own language derived from different segments of their own past. O'Neil's raspy singing/monologue through the mantra-like stream-of-consciousness closing track "Lime Tree" speaks of a band existing completely outside the influence of any music scene besides its own insular world. Not trying for commercial success, acceptance, or fame of any kind, Howling at All Hours sifts between moments of minimal rock perfection, visual and scrapbook-like lyrics, and confusing micro-meltdowns. There's a consistency in the Cannanes' inconsistencies and this album is one of the cleanest showcases of the inimitable path they've made for themselves over the years and continue to travel down alone.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas