We are always told that a book (or person, band, etc.) cannot be judged by its proverbial ?cover.? I?ve begun to think a bit differently in certain cases, however. Allow me to explain:
The onslaught of ?emo? in recent years, with all of its banality and (ironically) emotional dearth, has brought with it all manner of predictability. Keep in mind, there are bands that might be construed as emo that actually manage to be true to their emotions. I?m not talking about them; they don?t fit the mold. I?m talking about the bands that have been birthed out of the mentality that anything containing the words ?blood? or ?death? or the names of months and seasons is automatically deep. Any band that sings such words in a faux-distraught voice is almost certainly a practitioner of this ?n?-emo.? Therein lies the predictability.
These bands also drop hints in their names. One of the most common band name formulas is as follows: ?The? + (month, adjective, proper name or other descriptive word) + (noun). The July Volumes, for example. See? I just made that up, but it already sounds like emo. Naturally, when I read the name ?The Helio Sequence,? I was expecting some very specific elements, none of which were present, to my astonishment. Thus, my theory is bunk. Please disregard these first four paragraphs, and forgive me for wasting your time.
The Helio Sequence is actually quite different from the aforementioned batch of bands. The music fits with what Sub Pop is today, but the vocals sound oddly closer to Sub Pop circa 1991. Perhaps that?s not an entirely accurate description, but at least it?s clever. Right?
In all seriousness, though, Brandon Summers sounds a little too much like he?s fronting an energetic, mid-90s alternative rock band to be singing on top of this largely electronic bed of music. A few songs on this album put me in the mindset of Tubthumper-era Chumbawumba*; not because of the music itself, per se, but because of the general mood?okay, and because ?Don?t Look Away? has me thinking that Summers will bust out with ?I get knocked down, but I get up again? at any second.
Oh, it was partially recorded in Isaac Brock?s garage, you say? What?s that? It features one-time Modest Mouse fill-in drummer Benjamin Weikel? By all means, those should be redeeming factors, but the pair?s involvement only serves to confound things further. That musicians of such status are willing to be involved in such an utterly confusing (in a not so good way) project is curious.
I will concede that I was at least marginally captivated by the first song, aptly titled ?Harmonica Song.? Summers? deft harmonica playing layered over real and electronic drums, along with a number of other electronic noises, makes for an interesting effect. Soon, however, Summers drops the mouth harp and lets loose with all the vocal flair of recent Kid Rock material over similarly Kid Rock-ian Southern rock guitar. There are other interesting moments in the song, but the verses are cringe-inducing enough to warrant skipping to the next track.
Of the album?s 10 tracks, the only song that proves entirely bearable is ?Let it Fall Apart.? It?s nothing too special, but it?s a nice enough pop piece with enough swirling electronics to keep things moving.
The rest of the album suffers from a lack of variation and the confusing vocal presence of Brandon Summers. Oh, and it?s pretty cheesy, too. In the end, perhaps there is a connection to be made between the Helio Sequence and today?s n?-emo: it?s a bit difficult to take either seriously. *Excuse my off-kilter comparisons. They?re likely the products of sleep-deprivation. 3/10 -- Chris Skillern (25 May, 2005)