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I’ve been a Helmet fan for a long time and still enjoy spinning Meantime and being blown away by its combination of abrasive heaviness and off kilter melodies. So if I can still enjoy that reaction from an album made in the early 90s, why would I want to hear a tame rehash from an inferior band some almost 20 years later?
The score sheet doesn’t sit well for the band at present, since the 04 ‘comeback’ we have been treated with the solid but hardly challenging Size Matters (a more consistent and varied Aftertaste clone) and a misguided and horrendous attempt at recapturing their old sound in Monochrome.
So what does 2010 hold for us, ‘the fans’ and Helmet the now predominantly Page Hamilton ran institution?
In the past it was the mixture of Page’s mid paced repetitive groove and Bogdan’s more erratic racket (and later Traynor’s stop-start agro), that helped create albums of complementary rage and soothing despondence. Now with both gone and Page front and centre behind the wheel again, we go back to a semi Betty experimentation-Aftertaste hybrid which is equal parts too familiar and at times strangely bizarre!!!!!!
Seeing Eye Dog at first comes across as a confused jumble of an album masquerading as a thought out attempt at staying true while also attempting to be progressive by the formula of heard it before ‘insert new ideas here’ tomfoolery and baffling ‘stand out like dogs ears’ experimentation. From the opening track we get the familiar drone and buzz of the patented Helmet sound married with some ‘just too fucked up’ time changes, resulting in ‘So Long’ coming across as a noisy mess.
Then it’s back to the tried and true formula of the ‘Unsung’ template which has marked Helmet’s sound and Page’s approach for going on two decades. The title track, ‘Welcome to Algiers’, ‘Miserable’, ‘White City’ all follow the path of the cookie cutter, cut and paste workmanlike Helmet blueprint. There are a few new little bits and pieces added and more solos but all in all its business as usual for the majority of the album.
Then there’s the ‘other’ stuff. ‘LA Water’ and to a lesser extent ‘In Person’ have a more swimmy, dreamlike quality which while still having the identifiable guitar crunch float off into more softer less aggressive territories and then there’s the out of place ‘And Your Bird Can Sing’ shenanigans, sure ‘Sam Hell’ and ‘The Silver Hawaiian’ didn’t make much sense either but…… well you have to hear it to believe it.
So there we have it, an album which at times appears to offer up some puzzling surprises but at the same time spends most of its time cannibalising the recent past to the point of self plagiarism. I would say that as a whole this is a much better effort than Monochrome and while being predictable for the majority of the outing, does offer some left field quirkiness like only Page Hamilton can offer.
Fans of the millennium era of the band will find all the aspects they expect and love present and those who enjoyed the quirkiest moments of Betty will also be some what satisfied. However be aware that Seeing Eye Dog is essentially a Page Hamilton solo outing and has his fingerprints all over it. Another interesting addition to the legacy but still lacking that fire and intensity of old to make it a true winner.