It only takes one spin of Helpers on the Other Side to realize that this foursome of prog-punkers (or is it punk-proggers?) were destined to call Jello Biafra’s label, Alternative Tentacles, their home. With mile-wide cynical and satirical streaks, and a sound that touches on early ‘80s hardcore, where else would they go? Helpers roars out of speakers in a way the Dead Kennedys never did, though, with multi-part suites like “Glaciers (Cry of the Modern Neanderthal)” and “Send Conan Home” that are epic as their titles suggest. Not that these guys run with the Dungeons & Dragons crowd. “Conan” laments the emasculation of the American male, “Brown Summer” chronicles an immigrant border crossing gone wrong, and “Homage to Monte Cassino (Red)” is as powerful an indictment of war as you’ll find from a punk band in 2010: “I don’t see the glory in leaving my comrades to rot where they died / and the bodies of both sides look the same”.
The band saves the sharpest barbs for the nine-minute closer, “Like SARS, I’ll Ride The Wind,” where frontman Johnny Geek takes the POV of a virus eager to wipe out humanity if only it could “get out of this goddamn pigeon”, and lists the societal conditions that increase the likelihood of an epidemic. It’s like the CDC commissioned a punk band to educate the public about dangerous strains of influenza. Really, “educate” is the keyword with Triclops! These guys know what is going on in the world and aren’t afraid to take a stand. The truth may be hard to hear, and Helpers can be a challenging listen in every sense of the phrase, but it’s refreshing to hear urgency leavened with caustic humor in punk once again.
// Notes from the Road
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