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Helium : The Magic City * Matador Records
by Adrienne Day
New York, New York


helium

If good ol' fashioned rock 'n roll is facing a crisis in the '90s, it isn't because bands like Helium are on the prowl. With one solid LP, The Dirt of Luck, and two EPs, Pirate Prude and No Guitars making the rounds, the newest kid on the block, The Magic City, rounds off an oeuvre that smacks Postmodernism upside the head while pandering to the folks that still groove to their 4/4 classic rock albums. Not that Helium doesn't have their foot in the door--every song oozes futuristic melodic grooves that cling to your neurons longer than the THC does. These days, music of a non-electronic nature must bend over backwards to match the coolness of the dance music genre; it takes a serious and hell-bent razor-sharp raggedy-yet-timidly-voiced Mary Timony leading bassist Ash Bowie and drummer Shawn Devlin to consistently whip up tunes that employ not only the sigh of the guitar and the whine of the violin, but the drone of the moog as well.

The full-bodied anthem "Vibrations" sets the stage. "Leon's Space Song" follows with a Don Henley-like riff, "All She Wants to Do is Dance" in a minor chord. The Magic City fires a salvo into the world of rock 'n roll with "Lullaby of the Moths" and "Aging Astronauts"--and from the opposite front that The Dirt of Luck first challenged the unwary listener. These are the eye of the storm, unsettling and poignant--Julie Andrews could unwrap her dusty vocal cords and have a go. The entire album is more melodic and pensive, like a wine that, initially sampled too early, has finally been allowed to age to perfection. Don't be mistaken, the venom is still there, just in a much more palatable form. The Magic City is the marriage of the minds, the perfect antidote to music that takes itself too seriously (like most electronic music does). Like wearing argyle socks with a wrap, Helium's new album mixes the decades in a fashion some might consider daring, even silly. If the music wasn't so awesome, we might consider changing outfits.

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