Going To The Theatre
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Sometimes the greatness is obvious, and the Helm boys, Bret and Bart, are going to be holding us enthralled for many years to come. Keeping it simple, I’d say, as ‘Midnight Mood Swing’ proves, if Bauhaus ever did shoegazing they might rival this, if they were lucky. Nice repetitive guitar is able in an instant to accentuate the atmosphere with a tiny riff, and constant crawling vocals are delicately poised, rather than delicate. It’s all so deceptively simple, and the simplest things are always the hardest to pull off.
‘There Are No Snakes In Heaven’ has beautiful genuflecting guitar, proudly moody vocals and some creepy lyrical imagery, before it all simply melts away. ‘Going To The Theatre’ is feckless and reckless youth exposed, and it’s the way his voice, with a wispy guitar holds centre stage alongside the sordid words of - ‘I’m gonna catch me some great disease’.
When you figure he might make a thing of nocturnal stories, some proper sense comes with ‘All The Ghosts Spend Their Time Alone’, the guitar and bass entwined, as odd keyboards move it along, and mark time, which is fitting for a sorrowful tale, of people as ghosts. So that’s quiet and ‘In A Dark Room’ hints at some aggression with music that buzzes, moth-like holding sway.
Changes enchant for where that’s broad, ‘Face Go Red’ is narrow, scary imagery done in a higher pitched vocal, in a sad story around which sounds hang and linger. ‘A Walk In The Woods’ gets livelier, especially when it swerves around to the vocals. At one point the drawled approach made me think Eldritch had been given an enema, but banish that thought - oh God, banish that thought! - as that’s one Goth comparison too many. They’re nothing like that. Their fragrance may be damp, but they don’t reek. Interestingly, when I was first hearing that song I was laying on the floor, looked up and found I had a small woodlice for company (they sometimes creep in through the catflap). I lifted him on some paper and placed him outside where he momentarily flipped on his back and wiggled. I think he was saying thank you for that song, although he still hasn’t called….
Having got you hopelessly excited they do disappoint with a few of the later songs but expecting perfection right now would only be cheeky. There’s a few too many ordinary moments for this to be a minor classic, bit it’s close. ‘Fearless Peaches’ is, sadly, a stinker, an ordinary lyrical homage to a community ‘character’ and practically a dull, hippyish fable, lame because there’s no shock, sting, or triumph. ‘Cabaret Fortune Teller’ has darker musical redemption, but ‘Another Pretty Lament’ is only a snapshot of resignation
It is a wonderfully compelling album and this blissful clarity is only possible because they share individual quality and the sum is greater than any whole they could ever dig.
One day these boys are going to create magic.