Record Review - 1 August 21 2003

Since its release this past in spring, the Party of Helicopters' third LP has been subjected to so many different interpretations its sound alone could be the focus of a college symposium. Major themes would include the combination of Jamie Stillman's arena-metal riffs with British shoegazer reverb and shrill vocals; the possible categorization of some of singer Joe Dennis' lyrics as emo; and the incorporation of prog elements into a disc that doesn't feel particularly long, despite a couple of near-six-minute semi-epics.

Casting aside references to Iron Maiden and My Bloody Valentine, the PoH sound involves an odd and perplexing mix of conflicting thoughts and ideas. Stillman's hot-pink guitar spits out busy angular riffs and winds them around basslines that serve less as low-end foundation than as a thick sheet of echoes. Drummer Cory Race's dirty syncopations are fully embedded in the deluge of contrasting sounds, with Dennis' falsetto histrionics standing alone on the high-end.

These seemingly opposing elements bombard one another and produce a surprisingly palatable result. Highlights of the 40-minute frantic affair include the breakdown in the lead track, "The Good Punk," where Dennis probes his rage at a band not up to his standards over a martial backbeat. "Cover Me" explodes with a soaring riff, while an ode to facial hair, "The Toucher," get fitted with licks resembling bugle calls waking up the chorus lines. Please Believe It collects a series of stunning moments that rise above the chaos and hint at true sonic power.

The Party of Helicopters plays the Echo Lounge Fri., Aug. 22. $8.