Billy Howerdel – What Normal Was (Review)

By: Emily Tipping
In the chaotic thoughts of one’s mind music can be a way to stream the steady conscience in a wave that moves you forward. Billy Howerdel takes us on that linear ride with his new album What Normal Was out June 10th. Sometimes it’s best to evaluate the past to move forward as Billy states “This is me stepping back into my early teen self and making the record I would have made if I had the means and the knowledge when I first picked up a guitar — just in 2022.” An undeniable expression and appreciation for New Wave as an adult who was inspired by bands that can be easily heard on this album. Not only are there strong tones that shadow A Perfect Circle, but sounds from The Cure, Depeche Mode, New Order and Pet Shop Boys. 

This 80s influenced electronic techno compilation kicks off with the transcendent “Selfish Heart,” which shows his familiar smooth voice and talented looping skills by accompanying himself. The trip-pop “Free And Weightless” can easily be described of a ancestor of A Perfect Circle. It has a dark vibe with flaming beats and a familiar APC guitar tone. Next is “Ani” which has a repeating guitar lick interlude that reminds one of the band Silversun Pickups especially a song called “Lazy Eye”. (Look it up) “Beautiful Mistake”, is like a fantasy journey with sad lyrics. “The Same Again” has a New Order vibe with eerie sounds and shows off his electronic enhanced voice that moves though you like a hypnotic rollercoaster. The cathartic “Poison Flowers” has raw power, with low tones, a groovy beat and spooky sounds that resinate in his glass slide rubbing the strings to his 1960 classic Les Paul. “Follower” continues this moonlit ride through a desert of Morrisey-like riffs and sustain. “Bring Honor Back Home” lengthy legato and aphorisms continue this journey what feels like stepping into the now, bringing us current with political unrest and a repetitive pandemic. It follows up with two incredible compilations with female vocals. “EXP” showcases Cassandra Church as she continues to move us forward to grasp what is to come. “Stars” spotlights Hannah Greenspan who harmonizes perfectly with Billy bringing us into the future. 

This self-produced and self-engineered album is like a spectacular ride in a time-machine that orbits NIN. Each song is like a story in itself with a exciting exposition, a climbing climax and a restful resolution. The hypnotic and haunting sounds are limitless in this story. The atmosphere is gothic, with fresh new beats and a grunge-like surface. If you love 80s music and respect the talented Billy Howerdel then pick up your copy on June 10th. And if you can’t wait, pre-order is available as well!

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