Think Sprinkler, think Pond: think the entire bottom rung of the Sub Pop roster, circa 1992. With brawny guitar chords and the most lackadaisical vocals this side of Malkmus or Mascis, Black Helicopter doesn’t quite take flight. Which isn’t to say it entirely embraces that old slacker ethos by declining to try; the album’s opening riff attains a certain onomatopoeic effect by whirling in appropriately rotoresque fashion. Tim Shea’s bored singing, however, dulls the blades and keeps things on the ground. The abject lack of passion (or even enthusiasm) in his voice is matched by mundane lyrics about cars or verses such as “How’s my kids / How’s my wife / How’s my house / How’s my life”, which arguably strives to explore banality a la the Talking Heads’ methodology, but ends up simply being banal. The thick, juicy guitar tones and strong, steady strumming of Shea and fellow guitarist Jeff Iwanicki count for something, but the merits are offset by overly-leisurely pacing that sees most songs straggle on past the point of interest. “Warshed Out” offers Black Helicopter at its most compelling, with the band in full melancholic rotation and Shea flirting with an actual melody, but including a bonus version of the song is a bit presumptuous, regardless of the guest presence of Roger Miller (Mission of Burma) the second time around.
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