Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Party of Helicopters: Please Believe It (2003)

(As published in the Illinois Entertainer ... )

The Party of Helicopters
Please Believe It

Listening to Please Believe It, the third album from these Kent, Ohio, mess-makers, one gets the impression that they would rather be known for not sounding a certain way than for having anything so passé as a concrete musical identity. By setting lyrics they can't imagine anyone else writing to melodies that sound like everyone else's upside down, the quartet comes up with an "anti-sound" that actually belongs to a long and venerable tradition of music by bands whose fondness for chaos can't quite hide their fondness for pop.

One way the 'Copters establish the arbitrary as their arbiter is to have Cory Race drum as if the song he's listening to in his headphones is radically different from the one that the guitarist Jamie Stillman is listening to in his. Another is to have the vocalist Joe Dennis sling slang in a falsetto the very airiness of which only serves to highlight the palpably aggressive nature of Stillman's scrap-metal guitarmanship.

Most amusing of all is the band's use of song titles and catch phrases that work both as hegemony-threatening in-jokes and red herrings. If after lengthy investigation the Springsteen-isms of "Cover Me" remain hidden, the possibilities of a song called "Boston" that goes "Goddam, every night I see horrible things in my dreams" will seem endless to anyone who has ever thought Tom Scholz might be the devil.

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