Mary Timony: Mythic Peaks
There’s always potential for silliness when rock gets mythic, but there’s also the possibility that a little magic might happen. Spinal Tap’s “Stonehenge”may have nailed an entire genre, but at the end of the day it didn’t makeLed Zeppelin’s “Battle of Evermore” any less haunting.
Mary Timony is currently deep into that mythic world; her set at Lilli’s this past Friday even began with a trio of keyboard songs whose echoing electric-pianosound was guaranteed to make you think of Zeppelin’s “No Quarter.” Then again,one of those songs was “I Fire Myself,” whose violent/sexual imagery was a long way outside Robert Plant’s realm and whose love/betrayal theme sounded heart felt. That’s why Timony’s mythic excursions work (and for that matter why Zeppelin’s did): they’re attached to grabbing tunes and a strong emotional core.
Timony has stuck to the same format since putting Helium on hold last year; it’s still a two-piece band with Christina Files on drums (Timony played guitar for most of the set, with occasional swings to keyboard and viola).She’s gotten better within the limitations of that format, using various guitar pedals to fill in the bass frequencies. Still, the sound got notably fuller when a third musician came on stage (the Pee Wee Fist’s Pete Fitzpatrick, who played euphonium on the poppish “Ride on the Stormy Sea”); and a bass player would give the duo more room to cut loose. There’s also no good reason to ignore the Helium catalogue, which isn’t that far removed from her solo album Mountains (from which came the entire set save for one new song, “Pirate”).
Of course, Timony’s always gone her own way — even in Helium days, she’d throw out the old songs whenever there was a new record — and she usually provides good reason to come along. So it was with Friday’s set, which had its big rock peaks, its joyful pop flashes, and it’s haunting melancholia– but as usual with Timony, it was strongest on the last. Files is a sparer drummer than Helium’s Shawn King Devlin, but she showed a good sense of when to hold back and when to throw in some King Crimson-esque polyrhythms. Timony remains a magnetic, mysterious figure on stage (even when technical problems caused her to break into giggles), and she did her best guitar heroics on the closing “Poison Moon,” which built to a feedback-heavy finale. Somewhere the elves and dragons were dancing.
Blake Hazard was joined for the second half of her set by Jack Drag mainman John Dragonetti, whose atmospheric guitar and keyboard loops blended well with the natural charm in Hazard’s jazz-inflected pop. (The two aremaking an album together for release next year.) Opening the night were Headset, a renamed and reshuffled version of Shyness Clinic; they managed to sound as sensitive as the earlier band while playing much louder. The My Bloody Valentine-style guitar demolition on their closing number didn’t hurt their sincerity a bit.
— Brett Milano
reprinted from the Boston Phoenix 11/16/2000, w/p permission