Sunday, March 21, 2010

Helmet - "FBLA" from the album Strap It On

Helmet Strap It On album coverI've been looking for the reference for two weeks, and can't find it, shit. But when the world and I and were each much younger, I came across this interview with a musician (Mitch Mitchell? Steve Miller? Adrian Belew? *) who said something to the effect that Jimi Hendrix' musical ideas were so outside the box it was as if they "came from Venus."

Whoever it was who said it, dude could turn some righteous phrase, and I've never forgotten it.

Even though I'm not really that big a fan of Hendrix' psychedelic stuff, which, presumably, would be more likely than his other work to have come from Venus or Neptune or any other extraterrestrial location. Hendrix for me is worth listening to for his intense and immediate blues interpretations, stuff like "Red House" and "Hear My Train A Coming," and the brilliant synthesis of the blues with jazz/funk that was "Machine Gun."

All that other bloated psychedelic shit, that midnight oil-burning hall of whirling knives crap: it doesn't seem like it's from Venus to me. It seems like its from Nowheresville, or wherever else it is that silly excessive fads come from.

No, for a guitarist who regularly receives compositional advice from our Venusian brothers and sisters, give me Page Hamilton. And as best example of said extraterrestrial advice, give me the lead break at 1:34 of "FBLA," when the song ionizes, and Hamilton gives us 30 seconds of electrostatic discharge, a guitar solo that sparkles and crackles and resonates like a Tesla coil.

It's perhaps the greatest nonintuitive guitar solo ever played. IMHO, of course.

There're a bunch of good bands these days doing business under the "post-metal" flag, outfits like Isis and Pelican and Russian Circles. But of course Helmet was the first band to get themselves called post-metal, and though it's funny to see now that they sound nothing like what this post-metal genre would become, you can understand why the post-metal term is apt for them, probably more apt for Helmet than it is for Isis or Pelican.

Page Hamilton ca. 1993
Because Helmet stripped everything away from heavy music, all the baggage, all the cliches, and all the assumptions, and then rebuilt it from the chassis up, to their own unique specifications. The blues were discarded as irrelevant. Black Sabbath dirge, discarded as cliche. Keening, high-pitched cock rock vocals, ditched as past their prime. In their places, Hamilton and his fellows inserted John Coltrane and Glenn Branca. And to make sure we the listeners understood, the band kept their hair short and refused to wear black.
Sheesh, if the music hadn't consistently crushed your skull, we might not have recognized it for heavy metal at all. Helmet were, like mid-period Pink Foyd, a genre unto themselves. Not many had the hubris to try and copy them, and those who did failed badly enough that the band and its music were not sullied **.

Because of personality conflicts, and--perhaps--Hamilton's abrasive personality, the A-list version of this band was only together for eight years and four albums. Given the otherworldly nature of the sound that Hamilton achieved, I'd say those eight years and four albums were not nearly enough.



Helmet - Strap It On - 05 FBLA.mp3

This file was removed May 22, 2010. If you're still way interested in coming up with a copy of this--and really can't figure out where you might get one--drop me an email and I'm sure I'll be able to figure something out for you.

File Under: Noise metal, Post-metal (in an older sense)


*Certainly not Robin Trower and certainly not Frank Marino in case you were wondering. (Return)

**I'm sure Led Zeppelin would be jealous if they knew. (Return)

1 comment:

tad said...

Rastro: In yr poll, I assume by "non-intuitive" U mean improvised, off-the-cuff, not thot-up B4hand, or something close 2 that?
I only know about 1/2 of them, but I gotta go w/ the Frippster on this 1, even tho "Baby's On Fire" isn't his best work, but it is nice & screechy.
IS there a guitar solo in "The True Wheel"? Manzanera's gtr work there Cms kinda flat & clanky 2 me, repetitive, not like him at all, & it sure didn't jump outta the speakers at me -- tho it's possible my cheap, no-bass, 2-inch-speaker CD player isn't playing me everything it should. But everything else sounds normal.... Please advise.
I don't remember much of a gtr solo in "Driven to Tears," either, tho it's bn yrs since I've heard it. But Andy Summers has done lotsa other great stuff....
Yrs in deafness.... -- TAD.