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|HELMET's Betty - Ranked. 20 Years Later.|
New York City's HELMET may still be gigging with regular rfrequency, and Page Hamilton might still be as good as ever, but rthey have already made their mark in alternative music history with r"Meantime," "Aftertaste" and this delectable '90s gem, BETTY.
Speechless. So much in life leaves renders us speechless. When I heard the first
rumblings of "Speechless," it reminded me of my favorite songs, my favorite bands...
memories... Hamilton's vocals sound utterly human and hopeless. He sounds like
someone that has little-to-no hope, reflecting and musing on a bittersweet
relationship. "I'd blame someone, but I've got you/like everyday that bores me.
Sleep fine and night and wake up to/my early Speechless morning." By far Page
Hamilton's finest lyrics. The music though.... entirely different story. It's one of
Helmet's most subdued songs, and I almost didn't "get it" at first. Then I heard the
chorus transition into the most sinister sounding bridge I've ever heard in my life.
Stanier and Bodgan ease back, Hamilton gears up to solo, and the the song explodes
into a sludgy bridge. It all explodes at once, and it's glorious. You can almost hear
Hamilton sneering through the microphone when the bridge's groove kicks into full
stride... I've listened to music before, and this was the first time that music left me
speechless. This song changed my life.
Man, the first time I heard this song was when I was obsessed with The Crow. I
downloaded the soundtrack and heard this track. Almost ten years later, I
rediscovered Helmet, and remembered the connection I had with this song; I vividly remembered hearing
that deadly opening riff. After hearing "Milquetoast" again, almost a year ago, I realized it was no fluke.
can be said? The heavy-a.f. riff, Stanier's tighest rhythms on the album, and that
bridge.... my god, that bridge.... I realized that Helmet was going to be my favorite
band after I heard the transition into the end of the song. Just the contrast between
Hamilton's solo, Stanier's sinister backbeat, Bogdan's totally underrated basslines,
and Echeverria's rhythm part in the final bridge... It's quite mesmerizing.
The single from the Helmet album that everyone slept on. "Wilma" is one of Helmet's
loudest rocking tracks, grooves just as well as any other, and flows extremely nicely.
Hamilton's guitar tone sets the course for the rest of the album, but the immediate
standout in "Wilma" (the X-factor to the Helmet sound if you will) is John Stanier. He
changes up the groove, layers the song with bass-drum and hi-hat rhythms, and fully
enunciates his snare drum, making him one of the more unsung heroes in recent
rock history, along with his band-mates.
Hands down, "I Know" is the grooviest track on Betty. Following right after "Wilma," I
Know kicks off with a classic Stanier beat, drags the listener in, and then crashes into
one of the heaviest verses the '90s ever heard (or ignored). The song expands in
true Helmet fashion, with a big-sounding bridge, variations on the lead riff, and then
after an abrupt pause, drops into a patented Helmet "groovedown." Classy song from
a band in top form.
If I could pick one track to describe Helmet: the band, it would be "Tic." Starts off
with Stanier's patented groove, and then the bass and guitars crash in, giving the
song a sinister layer of riffs. During the bridge, the rhythm section expands into an
industrial sounding machine, and Hamilton's angular solos fill in the rest of the lines.
One of the all-time greatest post-hardcore songs, as well as one of the best Helmet
tracks. Nothing beats seeing the last few minutes of this song, as it was played live in
the '90s, with some kick-ass improvisation from the boys.
The song on Betty that sold me. "Clean" represents Betty, plain and simple. The
shorter, experimental nature of the track is reminiscent of "Rollo" and "Tic," but it
swings as hard as any other Helmet track, and has the catchiest verse/chorus
combination that Hamilton has ever penned. Rhythmically, it's simple, but it's a pretty
jazzy track with a positive message.
It only gets harder from here on out. Vaccination is a fantastic song, and I wish I
could put it higher. Behind the deceptively simple-sounding drumming, and groovy
power chords, is one of Helmet's jazziest tunes ever recorded. The 7/4 bridge is
groovier than almost anything on this album, and the song itself expands into a
typical Helmet jam. Helmet's ability to take a simple riff and expand it into an entire
composition is on full display here.
"Street Crab" at #8 out of 16?! I could split hairs about Betty all day, but this is the
most "normal" sounding Helmet track on the album, sounding more akin to Meantime
than almost any other track. The problem is: just that. Very little different here.
Bogdan's rumbling bass and Stanier's relaxed beat carry the entire song, but there's
hardly any difference between the lead/rhythm guitar parts, and it's overall just a
retreading of old (but damn good) water. "Street Crab" is a great song, rocks harder
than anything else live, but stylistically, it's no different than their older efforts. Too
bland, but definitely fits Betty.
|9||Biscuits for Smut|
The song that took the longest to grow on me. "Biscuits" was in fact a single, and
represented the fact that Helmet was willing to avoid the "one-trick pony" label, and
was willing to branch out into looser, hip-hop inspired beats. Stanier holds this one
down. Make sure to check out the delightfully '90s looking music video released for
"Biscuits." In many ways it was Helmet's plateau.
The song that should've ended the album. Over a loose beat, Hamilton's vocals
sound unforced, and the song ebbs and flows while bright images of the '90s flood
my memory. One of the most naturally sounding Helmet tracks.
"Rollo" essentially represents the problem with Betty; the album will remain
underrated because of Helmet's ability to write shorter, less-substantice songs, all
held down completely by the Stanier/Bogdan rhythm section. "Rollo" is a solid track,
featuring some of Stanier's best drumming, but it fails to make a grand impression,
when compared to other tracks here.
John Stanier has repeated numerous times that "Beautiful Love" was in fact a total
inside joke with the band, and was meant to sound as cluttered as possible. That
being said, it's a nice ode to the jazz standard, one which Hamilton & Co. obviously
|13||The Silver Hawaiian|
Bassist, Henry Bogdan, takes the co-writing credit with this short, funk-influenced
piece. Sounding more humorous than anything, The Silver Hawaiian is somewhat
forgettable, and was left off the reissue of Betty.
With one of the more obscure album enders, Helmet ends Betty with a short, avant-
garde cut. Nothing that memorable here, just an interesting piece of music.
|aftertaste namedrop but no STRAP IT ON? give me a break|
this album is okay but i lose interest in helmet after meantime
|love a lot of tracks on this but yea some of "experimental" ones kinda meander maybe i just dont GET em as i'm a rocker at heart|
|album rules hard, props for #1, Speechless is amazing|
|What a band, what an album. I need to revisit this. Thanks for the reminder OP. One of alternative rocks really big addresses alongside FNM, Soundgarden, AIC, SP etc. and so underrated.|