Helmet Gives You Exactly What They Thought You Wanted

I moved to this God-forsaken country called the Bay Area in pursuit of an

academic future. The portion of the Bay Area that I chose as my home

proved to be one of the slowest fucking communities in the world. I took

the first job that reared its ugly head. Customer service in a film lab.

If you ever have the opportunity to serve a community via this medium,

three words to remember and one sentence of profound truth: A.) Don't Do

It; and B.) Run like the devil is chasing you. Never was there a more

vile, reprehensible profession created. Some evil mastermind at the turn

of the century, with a group of highly-efficient cronies, deviously

plotted the demise of western culture as we know it. The vehicle for

destruction was none other than the business of providing customer

service. This business is designed with the intention of stripping the

customer service representative of creative energy and vitality and

conforming the individual to a debased level of existence. Rabid dogs in

crowded metropolitan areas enjoy a greater sense of self worth. Nothing

quite like helping the righteous public. But there is hope. Helmet's new

album, Aftertaste, is out. Nothing re-fuels me more than having my

personal negative thoughts reiterated by another. It's even better with

grinding guitars to accent the antipathy that is coursing through ones

veins.

Aftertaste is pure Helmet. Paige Hamilton and the band stepped

into the popular music scene just about the same time that grunge music

was taking off. The album, Meantime, was a thankful reprieve from

the regurgitated retro-rock revision that was sweeping the country under

the guise of alternative. I wasn't looking for soulful croonings about

insane loved ones, I was more interested in exploring the venom that was

coursing through my veins. Mr. Hamilton's screaming about the inane that

people take for granted helped affirm that my feelings about such matters

weren't completely psychotic.

He continued to vent his irriation about such matters on the follow up

album, Betty, but failed to make a connection with Helmet fans

because of the albums more experimentive musical arrangements . With this

album, Helmet returns to a more traditional Helmet arrangement of scathing

guitars and staccato drumming.

Most of the songs don't waste any time getting to the puchline. Song 3,

"Exactly What You Wanted" , explodes out of the gate with Hamilton's

ripping guitar hooks and traditional lyrics..." I let you down again/

what's another harmless little lie between friends/ now you can't be

disappointed/ I thought I gave you just exactly what you wanted." It was

lyrics like this that hypnotically rooted me to the spot. There is nothing

profound for the most part about this lyric or other similar lyrics, but

coupled with the intensity of the music and the delivery of screamed

vocals, it seems to strike a level most primal in me. Song 10, "Harmless",

is one of the few songs that is easily distinguished from the rest of the

album. Hamilton's singing seems to be slightly out of synch with the

beginning of the song. The guitar seems to be almost pulling the vocals

along. An intresting effect all in all. Another song that springs out

from the rest is "High Visibility." The beginning opens with a chugging

bass and Hamilton's quietly sung lyrics, then follows with the full band

launching into the grist of the song, mimicing the intro bass line.

Overall, this is a pretty good album by Helmet. The production could have

been better, accenting the bass lines more fully and finding a better

balance in song variance. But I'm obviously biased, I liked the last

album a lot and that separates me from most die-hard fans of Helmet. I

liked the variation of the last album; it's not often that one gets to

hear an electric banjo with distortion.

Helmet seems to have taken their last album in stride and returned to a

more minimalist approach in production. Paige Hamilton sings without

effects to his vocals and the guitar work is more straight forward. This

isn't a negative review of the album, after all, any album by Helmet helps

alleviate the tension and fuel the resistance against the degradation of

Western civilisation. I just wish that they had continued on in the

direction that they started with Betty.