HELIUM-THE MAGIC CITY
Perhaps you’ve heard the buzz about behind this new Helium album, how it’s a medieval fairy tale in the vein of Gentle Giant (I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that nugget of reference in the press kit -as if that means anything to anyone outside the progressive rock community) and French art-rock Art Zoyd? Both comparisons are pretty useless to folks familiar with those bands. I mean, id you’re gonna throw in a French band as a reference point, Standy By era Heldon would be a more accurate place to start. And really, so would the more experimental folk-rock and folk-psych re-issues coming out on the Korean Si-Wan label, or even the Italian progressives of the early 70s-these are more in tune with the hazy weirdness of this record than Gentle Giant. Still, such comparisons do shed light on the fact that Mary Timony and Company are indeed exploring the proggy backwaters of experimental music. The lyrics no longer rage cryptically, but center another fantastic realms and lovelorn heroines. Despite an impressive arsenal of vintage analogue synths, this album still heads closer to the mainstream of underground rock than to mid-70s symphonic progressive. Which is fine by me. I’d rather have the band skim the cream from both cups than fall into a bottomless well of nostalgia. Helium haven’t struck a perfect winner with this one, but they’re well on their way.
By Greg Weeks, The Big Takeover Issue Number 41