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the pathetic caverns - music by artist - Helicopter Helicopter

eclectic reviews and opinions

Helicopter Helicopter (with The So & Sos)

10 May 2003

T.T the Bear's (Cambridge, Massachusetts)

There are thousands of indie rock bands, but Boston's Helicopter Helicopter, right now, is near the top of the heap. Their CD release show at T.T the Bear's provided ample evidence of the many things they get right.

In the band's several years together, guitarist/singers Chris Zerby and Julie Chadwick have learned to wrap their voices around each other, blending their textures for maximum effect. Their harmony arrangements are simple, not interfering with the indelible pop hooks. The guitars growl in classic Gibson /Marshall fashion -- watching them live, I was repeatedly surprised at how simple some of the individual guitar parts were. The way they slot together is a classic case of the whole being more than the some of their parts. It's the sort of template that bands like Big Dipper have used for years, and it still packs a wallop when pulled off right.

This was the release party for the band's new Wild Dogs with X-Ray Eyes, but the set included many of the highlights from their previous full length By Starlight and a handful of older songs. The band wasn't overly slick. They started their set without the benefit of vocals in the PA, and Julie wasn't always on-mic, the rhythm wasn't completely lockstepped. But then again, that's how a loud rock and roll band in a club is supposed to be, isn't it? And every now then (as on "Like Detroit"'s chorus, with its long drawn out "Hey") they come up with a hook that's dangerously catchy and ride it just a little too hard. But the fact that their songwriting is getting sharper on each record gives them more things to aspire to. The CD release show was also the last for longtime drummer Nat Gallagher. Fans held up a big "We'll miss you Nat" sign and the entire band piled onto the drum throne for a group hug at the end of the set. The band has announced that Dave Foy, veteran of bands Dragstrip Courage and Calendar Girl will take his place.

Opening act The So & Sos were the former Meghan Toohey Band. As Meghan quipped, "MeghanToohey.com is a porn site now . . . and that's just the way I like it." (nb: she wasn't lying; no need to go check). I remember liking her record Romantic Blunder # 4, but was underwhelmed by the set, despite Toohey's strong voice and fine guitar playing (the growly, punchy tone of her solos was quite something). But the muscular rock arrangements made the songs sound very standard, and also samey, as if they were playing covers of a band I couldn't quite place. They didn't seem as if they would be out of place playing in the background of the WB TV show of your choice -- proficient, but much blander than H2.

(This review originally appeared in Tone and Groove.)

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