Friday, June 17, 2011

Helms Alee - Weatherhead (Album Review)

Helms Alee - Weatherhead
Release date: June 21, 2011 (Hydra Head Records)

After four or five spins of Helms Alee's sophomore album, Weatherhead, I found myself thinking "Man, it's too bad Kurt Cobain isn't around to hear this." After all, Cobain was never shy about name-dropping the Pixies and the Melvins as two of his biggest musical influences, and those two bands' legacies are alive and well on Helms Alee's latest release. Hell, if Kim Deal and Buzz Osbourne had a torrid, drug-fueled love affair and spawned three illegitimate children, odds are good they would grow up to sound quite a bit like Helms Alee.

Weatherhead picks up where the Seattle trio's 2008 debut, Night Terror, left off. Helms Alee superimpose the classic soft/loud dynamic of '90s alt-rock onto a modern post-rock backdrop, creating a sound that is simultaneously familiar and unique. The band doesn't really rely on catchy hooks or standard verse/chorus/verse song structures to draw listeners in, but that's not to say that there's nothing catchy or melodic about the music. In fact, Helms Alee might be one of the most accesible bands in heavy music right now.

Songs like "Music Box" and "Epic Adventure Through the Woods" showcase the vocal harmonies of the band's female rhythm section of bassist Dana James and drummer Hozoji Matheson-Margullis, while guitarist Ben Verellen takes center stage on heavier tracks like "8/16" and "Ripper No Lube." The band is at its best, however, on midtempo songs like "Pretty as Pie," where all three members' unique vocal abilities come into play.

At the risk of sounding like a pompous music snob (which, of course, I am), this is smart music made by smart people for smart people, but it's done so well, even the mouth-breathing masses might latch onto it eventually. In other words, enjoy Helms Alee while you can, because it's gonna suck to have to pretend to hate them in a few months when some kid in a Tapout T-shirt is blasting them from his lifted F-150 while you're stopped at a traffic light.

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