Help Yourself

Beware the Shadow

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On Help Yourself's third album, the band kept on exploring its quietly entertaining fusion between the trippier and rootsier sides of its personality, a bar band for those who liked to spend their days baking in the sun. The most affecting song is the closer, the beautiful "Passing Through," a gentle acoustic ballad that has the same regret-tinged melancholy of prime Nick Drake but, thanks to the higher singing register, comes across as a quiet anthem, well worth the hearing. The moments when the band freely takes flight are the major highlights elsewhere. The nearly side-long "Reaffirmation" could almost be a bit of proto-new age banality in the wrong hands but -- given the way Morley sings about "cuttin' butter with a knife" amidst the flute noises and how the slow, understated first section turns into a just-freewheeling-enough jam -- it works. There's even what could almost be an attempt at reggae, though that seems more something by accident than by plan, and by the time everything settles into a fine space rock chug into the infinite, the result is groovy fun, man. "American Mother" takes a more self-consciously epic stance from the start and gets away with it beautifully, with opening guitar that can only be described as heroic and an overall flow that sounds perfect for an easygoing drive down desert highways while chasing the sun. Extra points for the mellotron fake string action at the end as well. Other excursions into varying styles sometimes smack of dilettantism for its own sake, but things like the brief fragment "Calapso" and the goofy country drawling and strumming of "Molly Bake Bean" project good-natured humor more than anything else.

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