In the ‘80s it was fashionable to compare any band that wasn’t metal to the Beatles. Even when they sounded more like Pink Floyd, Todd Rundgren, or Air Supply. Such comparisons became rare in the past decade, with the onset of cynical, bitter grunge rock and its less interesting bretheren that became known as “Alternative” rock. That said, Brandon Summers and Benjamin Weikel display The Helio Sequence’s Beatles influence with a cover of “Tomorrow Never Knows” which actually does credit to the original. It helps that Summers has a voice which falls neatly between Lennon’s and McCartney’s. But this Beatles cover is not a direct copy of the original; it captures the spirit of the original well within its multi-layered guitars and keyboards and electronic sound effects.
It is stunning to consider that Summers and Weikel did everything on Com Plex—performance, engineering, mixing, mastering. Every track is filled from edge to edge with melody, floating guitars, voices, and keyboards producing sonic backup and intriguing sounds from old sci-fi movies. All finely blended into something mesmerizing, sometimes even beautiful. The music is both dated and modern; “Stracenska 612” recalls both vintage Pink Floyd and the French band Air, while “Sassafras” could be a collaboration between the Stone Roses and the aforementioned Fab Four. Throughout the nine tracks of Com Plex, Summers and Weikel pay many musical tributes to the Beatles, yet they never succumb to trying to be the Beatles. Something a certain British band whose name evokes a waterhole in the middle of a desert could learn to do a bit less clumsily.
The Helio Sequence may be too pop for progressive rock listeners and too much prog-rock for pop fans, but that should not hinder them. Com Plex is a dreamy delight, and shows promise that the duo will be able gain a well deserved audience far beyond the Portland, Oregon area.
// Notes from the Road
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