Have you ever woken from a dream and jotted down the plot only to realize later that it was all incoherent nonsense? That’s how the words on For Helen are. Proudly displayed in a handmade lyric book with comparably shitty drawings, the liner notes accomplish the rare feat of actually making the album harder to understand. With much of it written in a first-person narrative in what seems like a desperate alternate reality, it might aim for social commentary, but hits on intolerable hippy poetry.
When you buy this album—and you should because it’s overall very good—throw away the lyric sheets and enjoy it for its merits: intelligently composed music, distinct emotional range and consistent quality over all 11 tracks. Singer and guitarist Noah Wolf is elemental to their sound. He has the Pixies-like “wimpy voice over hard music” thing going for him and the vocals he uses on guitar give the band a uniquely mournful tone. At times, Wreck of the Zepher achieves the naked instrumental rawness that a solid three-piece punk band should aspire to. Tracks like “Rolling Over Process” and “Building Blocks” give rise to unrestrained musical breakdowns that find the band summoning impressive power and noise, while “40 Stories” and “I Can’t Wait For You to Get Here” offer a contrast by way of cloudy-day pop. This is not “fist in the air”, but “hands in your pockets” punk rock. It’s introverted, earnest and damn good for an unknown band.