Woozyhelmet, Get Down

Woozyhelmet, Get Down

[Ed. Note: In the review below, we blithely declared that guitarist/singer Jay Crossley was the band’s only songwriter. Per Mr. Crossley, however, that’s apparently not the case, and the songs tend to be communally written by all three members of the band. Sorry about that, y’all!]

Dang. I’ve had a hard time getting a handle on this one; it makes some sense, though, since Woozyhelmet’s Get Down is the latest by a band that has vexed me in the past, where live performances left me reeling and wondering what the hell just happened, unable to really pin ’em down. The last time I saw them, in particular, I can remember thinking, “yeah, they’re decent, but they’re not quite there — wherever ‘there’ may be — just yet.”

Good news time: Get Down is the “there” in my little bit of unvoiced mental criticism from back then. I can’t put my finger on what was missing before, but I’ll freely admit that the band’s new stuff well and truly hits the mark. It’s still strange, but it’s good shit, better than I’ve heard from them in the past. That doesn’t mean, however, that I have any easier of a time figuring out how the fuck to talk about it.

I know, I know — what’s the big deal, then, Mr. Hotshot Reviewer Man? If the album’s so damn good, why in the hell have you been having problems writing the review? Well, the sticking point’s really that this disc is one heck of a multiple-personality disorder mess. On the one hand, you’ve got raw, scraping, punk-gone-mathcore indie-rock that comes off like Sebadoh’s noisier moments (“Carter (Wolf),” “New Bear,” “Chocolate,” “Nixon (Jessica),” “What Respect Means to Jose”) with bellowing, threatening DC hardcore vocals that nearly rip the roof off the house. Then there’s the oddly funky, art-/prog-damaged rock (“We Support the Italian Stewardesses,” “May Be a Rock,” “Carotid”), which reminds me of The Rapture at points and the Talking Heads at others.

And then there’s the real right turn, the mid-tempo, countrified, drunk/sloppy-ish Modest Mouse-esque tracks (“If Not for Pants,” “The Well,” “Hopeless”), with those sloppy-but-not-really rhythms, lethargic, quasi-medicated vocals, and fractured — yet never completely broken. The one songs that really bridge the gap, at least between the Modest Mouse songs and the loud punkier stuff, are “Hopeless,” which meanders and jangles along cheerily ’til it explodes in bitter fury two-thirds of the way through, and “The Well,” which is high-lonesome mopey ’til Nancy Walton cuts loose near the end.

In spite of the three-way stylistic split, however, I find myself humming along to bits and pieces of each of the band’s musical “sides,” unearthing gems in each of the piles. It took me a week to get “Nixon (Jessica),” which somehow encapsulates the total awkwardness of one of the uncool kids making contact with one of the high school superstars in its one-line lyric — big, big kudos on that, y’all — and then buzzy, edgy, Fugazi-ish “Carter (Wolf)” took its place. That track faded and got replaced by the low-key (mostly), warbly “The Well,” after which followed the bumping, pseudo-glamorous “We Support the Italian Stewardesses,” the weird, desperate musing of “What Was Dad Talking To Daniel About?” (love this one: “Daniel’s a superstar / Daniel’s from Jupi-tar”), and the hilariously repetitive “Karaoke.” If you asked me to name a favorite, I honestly couldn’t tell you, and that’s an enviable problem for a disc like this to have.

To Woozyhelmet’s further credit, Get Down rides the line beautifully, never falling into the Uncle Tupelo trap of, “oh, yeah — I can totally tell which guy wrote which song, because it feels totally different; why are they all one band, again?” The songs are often disparate, sure, ranging off at right angles to one another, but they still work together somehow (okay, yeah, and maybe it’s because guitarist/singer Jay Crossley’s the only guy doing the songwriting, unlike with my Tweedy/Farrar comparison). The album trundles along like a wagon with square wheels; you get where you’re going, and the scenery’s incredible, but it’s a bumpy, surprising ride.

(Soda Pop Sounds; Woozyhelmet -- http://www.woozyhelmet.com/)
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Review by . Review posted Saturday, January 3rd, 2009. Filed under Reviews.

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