Friday, November 03, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 35: Helmet - Meantime

Album - Meantime
Artist - Helmet
Key Players - Page Hamilton - guitars/lead vocals, Peter Mengede - guitar, Henry Bogdan - bass, John Stanier - drums
Produced By - Helmet

Release Date - June 23, 1992

What caused me to blow off the dust? - The other day the mood just hit and this was the "one" to grab.

Overview - This is the bands second album and first on a major label. This record would go Gold in the USA (their first and only to do so) and could easily be looked at as a cornerstone of the alt-rock genre. With odd time signatures and overall heaviness not very commercial at the time it was the bands watermark release.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - Opening with the blistering "In the Meantime" its not unlike much of the syncopated heavy rock you hear these days but try to remember when this was not common. An article I recall reading around the time this record came out was how the band used "silence" to their advantage. For everything that was going on there always seemed to be a second of "silence" at the right point. "Ironhead" follows and if you don't catch yourself air drumming to this one well you must have your two hands on the steering wheel. Andy Wallace had mixed the bulk of this record (Steve Albini had done the lead off track) and Wallace was known for heavily mic'ing the drums. You get a very rat a tat sound from them thru the record. "Give It" has a bass intro that chugs back and forth until the band comes in. Its a slightly slower song than the previous two. "Unsung" is probably the song that most folks would recognize. Beavis and Butthead liked the video and the song can be found on a few video games. Videos were made for two other songs on the record but this song and video all seemed worth it to the label (Interscope) who was rumored to have spent over a million dollars to just sign the band. The return of investment seemed good at the time. The intro alone up to the vibrato guitars will make you want to drive your car 100 miles an hour. As the vocal verses begin the band locks in to the chugga chugga that would be its namesake its easy to hear where so many of the harder bands get it from today. "Turned Out" just might be one of the better hidden gems on the record. The drum breaks (of silence mentioned earlier) are evident and the bass has some good punch to it. "He Feels Bad", "Better" and "You Borrowed" all continue with this signature Helmet sound. "FBLA II" follows. Barring the "hit" this is the song I'd play for someone new to the band. Stanier absolutely pummels his drum kit. Rather than tapping out the standard 4x4 drum beat he is all over the place. Terrific and "fast" fills are used to the band advantage. Towards the end the band does some good break downs allowing the drum work to stand out and "lead" the band. (think of how "cool" that drum part is in "tom sawyer" by Rush and you get the idea). "Role Model" closes out the record on an equally as high a note.

Where are they now? - Helmet initially broke up in 1998 sighting "tensions" as well as weaning support from the label(s) and arguably the fan base. The band reformed in 2004 with Page as the only original member. The band released Monochrome in 2006 but after headlining the Warped Tour this year the band has all but "quit" on Page again. Rumors have it Page has new members and is looking for a guitar player to continue under the Helmet moniker.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - I was lucky to see the band on 4 occasions. The first was 8-19-94 opening for The Rollins Band. I got the set list from the sound booth. That was a habit at the time, trying to get the set lists (it still is if I can pull it off). The next was 12-13-95 in Providence on a headlining tour then a year later (12-9-96) as part of a local radio stations "holiday rave" show. The final time was 3-31-97 in Providence. The re-formed version hasn't grabbed and pulled me back in. There have been a few chances to see them since, but its going on 10 years which is a surprise as I write this.

FDF Overall Take - This really is a great "rock" record. At the time alternative rock was heavily geared towards the UK bands (which I liked mind you) but was sometimes looking for something more driving. Its probably pretty easy for a new fan to put this cd on and roll their eyes with a "been there done that" kinda attitude, but at the time this was really pretty ground breaking. I don't bat the word "classic" around but this is pretty darn close.


At 9:13 AM, Blogger Evil Speakers said...

One of the albums I had on cassette when it came out. I need to pick this one up and after reading the review today could be the day.

At 10:14 AM, Blogger Kris said...

awesome!!!!! saw them open for Faith No More and loved it....spent many a college hour in altered states listening to this one.

At 11:06 AM, Blogger Code Name: Ryan said...

I remember actually buying this album and thinking at the time how much it would mean to me... I know that sounds odd, but I do. I was way into them for a time and it was the record that nobody wanted me to have.

I remember slamming my head to In the Meantime and UnSung. Fun.


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