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Sister Helen - IV CD (album) cover


Sister Helen


Crossover Prog

3.91 | 4 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Eclectic & C/JRF Prog Team
4 stars A Fond Farewell (...and hello for this reviewer)

When it comes to the amount of quality music out there, I find myself frequently quite late to the party. So is the case with Sister Helen's 2017 release Sister Helen IV. "How is somebody late to the party for a 2017 release?", you may ask. When its the first time you heard the band and it is the announced finale in the band's discography, that's how. In reviewing this act's history, these young artists started this project in their pre-teens and have had a run that has lasted more than half of their lives. Having no previous knowledge of the band, it turns out the finale is a great place to start the Sister Helen listening experience.

The first thing that sticks out in listening to Sister Helen IV, is this sounds like a band that is born of youth, even prior to knowing the ages of the performers. Not as an indictment of maturity or quality, but an intangible diffusion of energy throughout the songs. In fact, the maturity in thematic presentation is well beyond what one expects of any but the most educated of persons yet to reach a quarter century of life. Mental health, history, and interpersonal communication themes presented with a seemingly deep understanding. All wrapped in a frequently groove oriented package that is funky, punky and not shy of dissonance, but never far from resolution. Mix that with a strong affinity for styles and artist that well pre-date their birth, including direct lyrical quotes from Herman's Hermits and Sly & the Family Stone, and the package is very diverse and expressive.

At times the sound of Sister Helen IV fills me with nostalgia of the East SF Bay post-punk/quasi-avant nightclub scene of the early 90's. As a matter of fact, singer Nathan Campbell's voice is a dead ringer for Eskimo/Ebola Soup vocalist John Shiurba at his least silly moments. The instrumentation is heavy at times but nowhere near metallic, with the guitars usually overdriven but not grinding. If my ear serves, twelve-string is being used. Lots of expansive chords and tight breaks, all the while maintaining an organic small venue rawness. The overall sound reminds me of Smashing Pumpkins if they had decided to be interesting for some reason.

It is strange, this album has the sort of pop sensibility of song/album structure that I am typically not drawn to. But there is something extremely addictive about this album. Maybe its the interspersed complexity, maybe the energy and rawness, or perhaps something completely intangible. Whatever the case, its not so much a masterpiece, but I find myself listening to this album frequently since discovering it. Shame this appears to be the last material this band will produce. 4-stars.

Tapfret | 4/5 |


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