CD Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band [Digipak] (CD 4563630),
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Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band [Digipak]
Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band
1. Who's Asking
3. Cheer For Fate
4. Anchors Dropped
5. Going On A Hunt
6. Year Or Two, A
7. Albatross, Albatross, Albatross
8. Dull Reason
9. Little Red Shoes
10. En Fuego
11. On The Collar
Manufacturer Part Number (MPN): 51311
Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band; Scott Colburn
Personnel: Matthew Dammer (vocals, guitar, mandolin, piano, Moog synthesizer); Benjamin Verdoes (vocals, guitar, percussion); Jared Price (vocals, accordion, bass instrument, percussion, chimes); Traci Eggleston (vocals, keyboards); Scott Colburn (vocals, percussion); Marshall Verdoes (drums, percussion).
Seattle's Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band want the punters to think there's more to the band than its music (although this was ultimately a simple ploy to get listeners). How else to explain their initial promo shots and a
page that offered no music, but only cryptic videos and pictures? They manufactured a mystique they needn't have, since their own story is quite compelling. For starters, all but one member of this quintet also previously served in In Praise of Folly. The lone member who didn't is 14-year-old drummer Marshall Verdoes, who is the adopted son of guitarist/lead vocalist Benjamin Verdoes and his wife, Traci Eggleston. (It is also rumored that Marshall is Benjamin's biological brother, but that is unverified.) See? Musically, Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band are a knotty, messy amalgam of indie rock stratagems, twisted pop clichs, and post-punk tropes that also sprawl out across quirky, angular rhythmic structures, shambolic attempts at R&B, classic rock asides, and clever hooky experiments in something akin to fine articulated songcraft, but not quite it. That's not a sideways compliment or a dig: one listen is enough to inform the listener that this is a group of very talented musicians who are quite capable of writing tight pop songs, but don't seem terribly interested -- at this point in time anyway -- in going that route. They've absorbed their record collections well, and while they look like geeks on purpose, they understand plenty about what goes into making a record that is compelling, quizzical, and infuriating to listen to. This band's sound on its self-titled debut is firmly rooted in its native Northwest but also touches on certain elements of the roots of modern rock. The set's best tracks, "Albatross, Albatross, Albatross," "Going on a Hunt," "Masquerade," "En Fuego," and the all-over-the-map "Little Red Shoes," all combine rhino-charging guitars wrapped in skittering, quirky rhythmic statements, cryptic, often hilariously wry lyrics, and changes in dynamic tension and texture, making for an obsessive listening experience despite these tracks being utterly empty when it comes to drama -- real, imagined, or "melo." There is little to complain about until the seven-plus-minute final cut, "On the Collar," which consciously tries far too hard to be "pretty" and "melancholy." It falls hopelessly flat and drags on forever. Ugh. That's a small complaint, however -- and at least MSHVB had the good taste to leave it to the very end -- on a recording that is otherwise as full of life, recklessness, and sheer punch as this one is. ~ Thom Jurek
Spin (p.81) - "Bluesy single-note guitar lines compete with jagged chording, the bass thumps out counter-melodies, strained yelping dissolves into pastoral harmony."
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Dead Oceans Records (Sister label o 51311
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