The Helio Sequence

Love and Distance

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The Helio Sequence's first two albums were dense, exciting blasts of noise, melody, and electronic wildness that seemed to jump out of the speakers. Their third album, Love and Distance, is not exciting, not very melodic, and quite mature. It is still fairly loud, dreamy rock, but the wall of sound has been pared way back and the vocals have been brought to the forefront. Instead of dreamily floating along with the waves of noise, now Brandon Summers grittily shouts over the top. The guitars no longer howl and crash about; they are layered carefully and applied cautiously. The tempos drag, the lyrics are nothing special, the electronics nothing much to care about. Instead of sounding like the teenage spawn of My Bloody Valentine and Mouse on Mars, now they sound like Radiohead's very earnest cousin. Parts of the album are even reminiscent of the Stone Roses' bloated Second Coming fiasco. It must be something about the plaintive voice and ponderous tempos, the Stones guitar riffing, the bluesy feel of songs like "People of the Secret." Growing up doesn't have to mean growing bland, but it seems to be what happened to the Helio Sequence. The music all just washes past; it's the kind of record you can sit through and at the finish not remember a thing about it. The only song that really makes much of an impression is the closing "Looks Good (But You Looked Away)." It's the kind of cosmic country that Beachwood Sparks do so well, with a very nice laid-back, outer space feel. Not exactly what the Helio Sequence used to do but better than bland. Perhaps the palpable sense of disappointment here comes from loving the band's first two records so much. Maybe to a fresh set of ears, Love and Distance might sound like an interesting take on the whole modern Radiohead-y guitar rock with electronics thing. Not as innovative as the Flaming Lips, say, but certainly better than South or Elbow. If you want to be charitable, chalk it up as a holding pattern on the way to something better, maybe even a "grower." If not, call it the death knell of the Helio Sequence. Either way, your best bet is to stick to the first two records and hope they can recapture some of their initial spark in the future.

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