Howlin’ Rain – The Russian Wilds

January 01, 1970



When Ethan Miller formed Howlin’ Rain in 2006, he did so
with the intent of utilizing it as a more soul-driven side project to offset
the seismic cracks in the ground he was breaking as the frontman for Comets On
Fire, a band who set the scene for the robust new school psych rock movement
that lives on in such prolific acolytes as Wooden Shjips, Earthless, Ty Segall
and Sic Alps.


But around the time when the Rain came down upon the faces
of underground rock fans, the Comets reached supernova and exploded in the
height of their greatness, leaving Miller to focus on his newly established
outfit on a full-time basis.


Six years later, Howlin’ Rain have surpassed the singing
guitarist’s former vessel in just about every way, shape and form. And with The Russian Wilds, this Rain’s aim is to
wash away the corporate-friendly cocktail of ego, hair gel and tribal tattoo
ink that passes itself off as commercial rock in 2012. It is the sound of New Cosmic California ready for its close-up, in essence: the
product of a year-and-a-half of solid wood shedding with Rick Rubin, who played
a crucial role in the creation of Wilds as executive producer,
working alongside Miller and veteran underground impresario Tim Green (Nation of
Ulysses, The Fucking Champs) in shaping the 11 songs that comprise their third
As he has shown with the diverse multitude of artists he has
collaborated with for his American Recordings imprint, be it Slayer or The Geto
Boys or Andrew Dice Clay or Johnny Cash or Donovan, Rubin excels at pushing the
raw honesty out of the acts he chooses to intensively work alongside during the
recording process. And with this Howlin’ Rain LP, he has brought back an
element of his imprint’s distinctive DNA that has been dormant since The Black
Crowes’ Amorica, or perhaps even Dynamite Monster Boogie Concert, the
criminally slept-on sophomore album from Pennsylvania stoner metal greats
Raging Slab, which Rubin also executive produced back in 1993.


The vintage AOR just wafts through the air like the
amalgamation of Dragon’s Breath incense and weed smoke in a 1973 man cave the
moment The Russian Wilds kicks into
gear with the epic, eight-minute opening cut “Self Made Man”. From there,
Miller and the current lineup of guitarist Isaiah Mitchell,
multi-instrumentalist Joel Robinow and drummer Raj Ojha project their immense
knowledge of such classic rock nuggets as Humble Pie’s Smokin’, Freeway Madness by
The Pretty Things, Grin’s All Out and even to a lesser degree the first
Badlands album over the course of the record’s 59 minutes, particularly on
songs like “Can’t Satisfy Me Now” and the haunting “Strange Thunder”, perhaps
the most poetically graphic suicide ballad ever written.


Though they may hail from San Francisco, Howlin’ Rain is a
band with the frequencies of Scott Muni’s old WNEW broadcasts on the East Coast
coursing through their nervous systems, emphasizing the roll as prominently as
the rock with a soul and grit that is almost entirely lost on a generation of
kids weaned on whatever the Pitchfork Media Complex chews up and regurgitates
into their awaiting mouths. If you fancy yourself too hip for classic rock
radio, don’t even bother trying to understand The Russian Wilds. Stick with Grimes or Perfume Genius or whatever
else the cognoscenti of cool are trying to sell people on with their verbose
carnival barking. This is pure, un-concentrated psychedelic boogie rock rooted
in West Coast mysticism, Stax R&B and Memphis blues without pretext or
pretense. And if you are not down with that, as Eddie Vedder say, this is not
for you.


Made Man”, “Can’t Satisfy Me Now”, “Strange Thunder”, “Cherokee Werewolf” RON HART


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