Hello Again

Hyde (Popfly Music)

Howlin' Maggie

By Kory Wilcoxson

Six years is a long time in between albums, and anyone who remembers Howlin' Maggie's 1996 debut Honeysuckle Strange may have understandably got tired of waiting and found themselves another Ohio college pop band.

Howlin' Maggie works hard to win fans back. The band has been retooled since we last heard from them, which means Hyde is more than just Album No. 2. The album itself is a two-sided trip, walking the line between high-energy rock 'n' roll ("Where My Funky People?," "Elephants Run Amok") and melancholy ballads ("Is It Really Alright?"). The obvious strength of the band is the songwriting of Harold "Happy" Chichester, formerly of the Royal Crescent Mob. The lyrics are mature without losing their playfulness, and Chichester treats dark subjects with both sincerity and perspective (check out "If I Could Murder the Right Man").

The first single "Love Is All Around," starts off with an XTC jangle and moves into a Gin Blossoms pop groove that is loose without being disjointed and, in the end, holds up as a pure delight. Welcome back.