‘Densely packed with emotion and power, it’s a cathartic and energy demanding cover.’
When The Weeknd’s ‘Blinding Lights’ started life, it was something that would have been more at home in Netflix’s Stranger Things than real life. Now The Howl and the Hum have changed that. Taking the heavily synthesized single, with a riff that soared above the vocal line, this more stripped back version has an intensity and vulnerability that drives home the concept of ‘going through withdrawals’ after separating from a lover.
Cover Track Review
The first thing that hits you when listening to this masterful cover is the high-pitched and ambient sound that opens the track. The iconic main riff that’s exposed in the introduction of the original is nowhere to be heard, and with this omission an eeriness descends. We, as listeners are left in an trepidatious state as the song is slowly introduced. Then, with the lead guitar initially hinting towards the original via just two notes of the main theme, the rest of the band come crashing in with an immeasurable energy.
Contrasting the electronic production of The Weeknd’s single, this cover features only vocals, two guitars, bass and drums. It is essentially a live band, and you can’t really get more exposed than this. The Howl and the Hum, clearly eager to play another live gig (as many bands are), have replicated that sound and that energy here. In short, they completely encapsulate the atmosphere of hot stage lights, loudspeakers and a crowded room.
Both The Weeknd and The Howl and The Hum have created exceptional releases from the same musical skeleton; yet the musical skin surrounding those bones couldn’t be more different. It is without doubt that ‘The Weeknd’ had initially created a pop masterpiece with ‘Blinding Lights’ – so much so the band felt they ‘would never better the original’. However, I think it safe to say that their version is a piece of art that stands alone.
Taking a post-punk approach to this otherworldly single, The Howl and the Hum have made it completely their own. Shifting into a low register grounds it, and generates a darker tonal colour that’s saturated with desire and exasperation from front man Sam Griffith. He carries heavy, gritty vocal quality, and occasionally almost breaking into a shout, a sense of deeper emotion cuts through the palpable texture.
Something key to the original is that aforementioned iconic main riff. So iconic that it makes you want to get up and dance. The Howl and the Hum however have changed this riff. They’ve taken it, placed their own stamp on it, and in adapting this statement created something with more intensity. Likewise, with the additional drive behind it, there is a level of anger in this expression of the material. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you won’t want to dance to their cover, but rather that you will be dancing to a completely different atmosphere, in completely different manner. You will be dancing like you are at a live gig again.
So densely packed with emotion and power, The Howl and The Hum’s cover of Blinding Lights is a cathartic, and energy demanding listening experience.
Full feature by Tiegan Wright
Track Artwork by Conor Hirons
Find out more about The Howl & The Hum at:
Behind the Music: Interview with The Howl & The Hum
Music Video Feature: The Howl & The Hum: Blinding Lights
Experience the full version of the cover release, which this review was based on below.