Life's hard, get a Helmet


Helmet brings its heavy and intelligently crafted sound to Common Grounds on Saturday.

Special to The Sun
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

Fest armbands should come with a warning label about the week after: "Don't make any plans."

It's kind of hard to make plans anyway. Other than the extreme longing to stay motionless for large chunks of time, there usually isn't a whole lot going on.

Smart business, if you ask me. Most people don't come out of that kind of mania, then walk right back in five days later. Or at least they want something different, as evidenced by the plethora of reggae and ska shows around town this week.

Luckily, there is something that will sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old "ultra violence": Helmet is coming to Common Grounds on Saturday.

Helmet seems to be one of those bands that get a large amount of respect and admiration, sans the equal amount of conventional fanfare that normally follows. In their case, the reason none of that happened is the same reason why it should have.

Having gained the majority of their notoriety in the mid-'90s, Helmet stood out by being the most plain-jane looking band around. While their contemporaries spent time with wild hair and clever black outfits, they consistently stepped out on stage in jeans and T-shirts. What made them stand out even more was their approach to dark-sounding music as a means to express realistic experiences; others were gunning for shock factor.

To define their music takes on a specific problem. It's not that they split genres and cross incompatible lines. There just isn't a good word for it. Post-hardcore is probably the best, but it takes no account of singer Page Hamilton's unique voice and how much a part of the band it is.

Call it post-hardcore or metal or anything you want. Whatever the term, Helmet was one of the first bands to do it - and thousands followed.

Bass-heavy and almost always in minor key, the band's intelligence and forethought is apparent on each of their records. Their frequent use of staccato rhythms, despite using de-tuned guitars and plenty of distortion, not only requires physical talent, but a lot of careful planning during the songwriting process. - particularly when you are devoid of past examples on which to build.

When it all boils down, one fact is true: Helmet is one of those few true originals who helped shape the musical world as we know it.

Plus, Page Hamilton plays a mean guitar and puts on a good show.

The bands backing them up are a classic example of the influence Helmet has quietly built over the years.

It wouldn't be surprising if Totimoshi is one of the influencees that they are proud of. The genre-requisite darkness of their music comes more from pure vocal tone than anything. Their new album, "Ladron," could easily work as the soundtrack to a revised version of "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" - although remaking that film at all would be, by definition, weak.

The pride would almost certainly come in when considering the range of use Totimoshi manages to get out of such a simple framework. First, you won't see the phrase "post-hardcore instrumental track" very often, and they have that covered. They can be fast and more punk-based, slower with a strong metal tone and combinations all around. Keep them guessing, keep their attention.

Burning Brides takes a lot more pop cues than their compatriots. Specifically, they work more like a Zeppelin-era hard rock band than anything else.

Me, I don't care for it - they're in the same sport as Helmet, not the same league. But they're good enough at their chosen style that many others will.

I told you there were a lot of ska and reggae shows. It wasn't a dig. Check all of this out: Friday at the Atlantic are De Lions of Jah, Sweet Kings and Gainesville's own The Duppies. Good lineup. Also Friday at The Side Bar is Scholars Word, The Dub Slackers and Uprooted. Lots of dub and roots reggae. On Sunday at 1982, Whole Wheat Bread and The AKA's are playing with Big D and the Kids Table. Party ska and punk with special guests appearing. As usual, the Reggae Tuesday Allstars will be at Sidebar again (that's on Tuesday). Surprisingly good collective of locals jamming well. Finally, on Wednesday, The Venue has Scotty Don't, Scratch Radio and Hours Eastly supporting the Sublime tribute band Badfish. Told you there was a lot.

If the island music doesn't suit you, give The Dead Songwriters a try. They'll be at 1982 on Tuesday with The Flying Dutchmen, Paulson and Zach Silver. If you look on the Internet, you'll see there are some gutsy claims about their quality. I hate it when people do that, but at least they can back it up.

Reach Kyle at quieteidolon@gmail.com.

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