Heliotropes - A Constant Sea

by Rich Morris Rating:5 Release Date:2013-06-28

Brooklyn's Heliotropes draw together US 90s alt-rock (especially the radio-friendly end of grunge), dusty, Mazzy Star-style alt-country, and an 80s goth feel reminiscent of Siouxsie & the Banshees in their full theatrical pomp. Which sounds pretty great, but too often on their debut, A Constant Sea, they squander what they've got through combination of a simple lack of good songwriting and unsuitable production.

Too many numbers here are slow and dirgy, in that quintessential 90s US rock way. Passably pretty ballads such as 'Awake' are hamstrung not only but the deadeningly repetitive chord-progressions (which put one in mind of the bad old days of The Cranberries) but also an over-use of sludgy, poorly produced, utterly superfluous rawk riffing, burying everything under a needless bellyache.

On the plus side, no one can claim Heliotropes don't rock. Most of this album rocks its lady-nuts off, but it does it ploddingly and by numbers. It's not all bad: 'Early in the Morning' has a great change of pace mid-song, where the band go all folky before kicking back into the monster riffage.

However, it's often these quieter moments which work better than the riff-fests. The album's highlight is 'Christine', which proves Heliotropes surprisingly capable of diversity by introducing a 50s doo-wop melody and some lovely 60s girl-group longing. 'Everyone Else', meanwhile, is their most Mazzy Star moment, its simple, down-home acoustic strumming enlivened by subtly psychedelic, backwards guitar and some sparkling harmonies from singers Jessica Numsuwankijkul and Amber Myers.

And this is the very annoying thing. There are already all-female bands who do the 60s girl-group things or the Mazzy Star woozy, sultry thing. It would be awesome to have an all-girl band who rock like motherfuckers, the way L7 used to. But the likes of 'Good and Evil' and 'I Walk on the Water', while in no way terrible, are lacking in punk spirit. Maybe it's the production. Maybe it's the band's preference for frequent stop-start dynamics in their songs and over-emotive singing. I dunno, but I can just imagine these guys playing in a bar scene in some crappy US teen drama. I can't imagine them blowing anyone's mind.

Maybe I'm being too harsh. I think with a no-thrills, Albini-style production, Heliotropes could rock like blazing punk bastards. And, next time round, that's what I want to hear. As well as some more lovely ballads, please.

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