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Friday, 16 November 2012

"Surprisingly moist" - HELMET LIVE REVIEW, 1995 Melody Maker




HELMET/KERBDOG
WULFRUN HALL, WOLVERHAMPTON
GRUNGE is dead? Oh grow up, for f**k’s sake. Journos who offer up post-structural cockamamie with one hand still have the other down their thermals wanking over their youth, fantasising the centre of a pop they can no longer find. “Grunge Is Dead” or “Britpop Is Back” they shout from pages covered in exclamation marks and super soaraway headlines, with their simplifying desire to pin down pop to a fixed trend, to tie it in with demographics or history rather than let it create its own messed-up mythology. The pop world that bounced you from cradle to classroom to club has gone for good – GET OVER IT! Grunge didn’t die with Kurt, it’s just undergoing therapy.
   So in London, the post-Nirvana consensus may be crumbling but our cheap talk is broken, BLAMMO, by the 12-year old kids motormouthing in soprano, sharing cigarettes, wide-eyed and loving every minute, by the sweat that bullets my eyes with every crushing beat. We don’t need to patronise the fans, they don’t need their scenes created for them. Go with the flow in all directions.
   Avoid this one though. Kerbdog are still young, still have one ace song (“End Of Green”) and are still f***ing dreadful. ET has said that people are too analytical and snobbish about bands like this, and should just be swept away by the adrenaline blast. Believe me, I’d love that to happen here, to let my body take control, flip out and flop wads all over the shop, but Kerbdog’s sluggish dynamics, unmemorable riffs and fundamental lack of chunder leave me frustrated and cold. They don’t rock, and surely that’s the least we can expect? Chinese burns all round.
   Helmet have never been my cup of lard before. I’ve always seen them as the worst kind of overpaid dirge-merchants from hell. No fun. The new album changed all that. T Ray’s production has beefed up the rhythm section until they achieve a kind of airborne mass, and the lose none of this irresistible punch and phatness live. “Biscuits For smut” humps over a coiled riff so good you’re amazed no one’s come out with it before: then you hear a similarity to PE’s ‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix’ and “Funky Dollar Bill” and you admire the esteemed company. “Wilmas Rainbow” is beautifully clipped and precise, with all their maxi-shread heaviosity pedals on red-alert while “Tic” and “Rollo” are state-of-the-arsequake crunchy metal with extra Brotzmaan/Band Of Susans frazzle to send the moshpit doolally on songs they’ve never heard before. The rest of the set I don’t recognise and don’t really want to but the sound is always startlingly clear, chrome and glass shining through the encrusted mud I was expecting.
   They’re not much to look at and Helmet should ditch the old stuff and further explore that rubber-band bass, buy a wah wah and get some Big Chief down them, but they’re already an unexpected groovy treat and once they truly get on the good foot they could be some kinda awesome.
   Surprisingly moist.
NEIL KULKARNI 

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