Sunday, February 8, 2009

Operation Album Clean-Up: Meantime

While going through my iTunes library today, I realized that I have a ton of albums that I haven't listened to all the way through. This can probably be attributed to the fact that I focus on one or two songs at a time on each album, and usually move to another album after exhausting that one song. In order to better get in touch with my collection, I've decided to create a weekly segment where I listen to (several times), and review a neglected album from my collection. This week's selection is Helmet's album "Meantime," released in 1992.

After doing a bit of background reading on the album and band, I'm a bit surprised at how successful this band was. Meantime went gold in 1994, and has sold over a million copies. "Unsung," (the song I listened to a lot before forgeting about the album) actually got substantial airplay, and was on Guitar Hero I. This album was also (appranently) extremely influential on a lot of 90's metal/hard rock bands. That kind of sucks, because Helmet, like Rage Against the Machine, should definitely not be judged by who they've influenced.

The instrumentals of Meantime are surprisingly minimalist, with ultra-dense and slow chord progressions, bass pedal/open hi-hat-heavy drums and drop-D bass. The album chugs along menacingly, having the effect Metallica wished "Enter Sandman," could have (which, it didn't, because that song is lame). The slow path of destruction is ocassionally stymied by Paige Hamilton's dissonant solos, which are marvelous (I'm a big fan of screechy solos, which is one reason I like Primus so much), and drummer Jon Stanier's ridiculous fills.

Stanier is the driving force of the album. He's one of the most technically sound drummers that I've heard in a long time, but he's not overly bombastic or showy, which most great drummers fall prey to. I knew I'd heard his name before, and as it turns out, I actually have two albums in my collection: Meantime and Battles' 2007 self-titled math rock-out, which has similarly precise drumming.

The lyrics on this album are pretty bleak, but are generally pretty solid. "Unsung," in particular is great, and it makes me happy every time I hear Hamilton say: "archetypal suicide." I feel like that deserves to be a band name or album title. Sometimes the lyrics get a bit too indifferently aggressive for their own good, like "Give It"'s groan-inducing line: "Killing hurts/It has to be done." Otherwise, the lyrics are pretty strong, and do nothing to hurt the pounding sound or master instrumentals.

Meantime's songs are strikingly similar to each other, but it doesn't really hurt the album. Each song has the same "stop-go-stop-go" pattern, but it's utilized so effectively that it never becomes annoying. The album is fantastic, and I get the feeling I'll revisit it more than once. If you like metal, noise rock, hard rock or just strong instrumentals, check it out.

Best Tracks: Unsung, FBLA II, Iron Head, Better

Score: 9.2/10

High School Musical
Jet's "Are you gonna be my Girl"
Cell phones
Under The Influence of Giants
Season 2 of LOST
The Sims
Aviator sunglasses
Tokyo Police Club
Samuel L. Jackson
Teddy Roosevelt/Bruce Campbell


Jake said...

How long is this weekly segment going to last? 2 weeks? maybe 3?

Thom said...

More like all weeks, d-bag! You were probably right, but now you've motivated me to go 4, perhaps even 5 weeks!