Release Date: Aug 3, 2010
Record label: Dead Oceans
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
On Messengers, frontman Benjamin Verdoes laments, “Oh, there is a dissonance between us,” a line more applicable to the eccentric Seattle-based quintet than an ex-lover. Cut-and-paste compositions, dueling guitar riffs and pummeling bass drums collide head-on in frenetic epics “Leaving Trails” and “Hurrah,” sending Messengers to its summit more than halfway through. The result is a seamless yet stark poeticism that best represents MSHVB’s overcast outlook on the world below.
The 2009 self-titled debut by Seattle's Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band, was an attractive, if nowhere near completely realized, shambolic intro to a talented group of musicians. On it they proved they could mine rock and roll's many tropes--from Lieber and Stoller and Chuck Berry to psych, glam, and indie rock--paste them togerther at odd, but charming angles, call them original songs, and pull something like an album off--even if their marketing abilties exceeeded their musical ones.
We all know the saying about what happens when you assume. And we also know that a band’s name usually has little to do with its sound or its genre (see: Conifer). But Ben Verdoes and his Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band seemed to uninitiated ears to promise something either ramshackle or violent or ….
The general consensus about Seattle rockers Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band's self-titled debut effort seemed to be that it displayed flashes of promise, but was too often mired by their constant desire to take songs in unpredictable directions and cram as many disparate genres into one song as they can. Occasionally these stylistic detours would ruin an otherwise acceptable song by killing its momentum dead or crowbarring in incongruous sounds; equally often it was the case that they were the song's sole grace.
Experimental group looses its oomph Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band is a family affair, three-fourths comprised of guitarist/singer Benjamin Verdoes, his wife Traci Eggleston and Verdoes’ adopted 15-year-old brother Marshall. Their 2008 self-titled debut showcased this close-knit relationship; the album was relentlessly agile, its melodies twisting into snaking experimental masterpieces with ever-shifting time signatures and improvised riffing/drumming give-and-take.
This second offering from the Seattle indie-poppers sees them take a step back from the jaunty and angular style that defined their self-titled debut and garnered comparisons to [a]Wolf Parade[/a] and [a]Modest Mouse[/a]. Although still fans of start-stop measures and tempo changes, this time around songs are given some welcome room to breathe and the quartet focus on grand, pastoral soundscapes, which loosely recall the likes of [a]Pink Floyd[/a]. Swirling organ and layered strings underpin [b]Benjamin Verdoes[/b]’ vocals, which uplifts and unsettles in equal measure.[b]Tessa Harris[/b] .
It’s tough to put a finger on exactly what I find off-putting about Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band, but there’s definitely something that makes them difficult to like. Maybe sorting through their second album Where the Messengers Meet will help to figure it out. Opening song “At Night” begins ….
I suppose by a group's second album, you shouldn't be dwelling so much on its name, but going by "Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band" somehow makes less sense than it did the first time around. In the context of the Seattle quintet's self-titled debut from 2009, you could at least consider it a riff on the overblown monikers preferred by enthusiastic, collective-ish types such as themselves.
There’s no elaborate story or deeper meaning to the name Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band – according to the members it was just some silly phrase a young friend blurted out on a long car ride – but it still does an articulate job of describing the band’s sound. Like Mount St. Helens, or the ….