Though you may not recognize the name, Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death is a Seattle band featuring Spencer E. Moody (previously of Murder City Devils/Dead Low Tide) and Corey Brewer (Bright Shiny Objects). The band’s debut, Helpless is a record defying convention, based around the Neil Young cover from which its name emanates, splattering library music, noise and spoken vacancy into something bordering brilliance.
The opening “Demolition Man” bristles with apt unease, nodding to Stephen Malkmus and the Red Krayola. “The Salted Ones, Into The Mud” recalls Sonic Youth circa Evol and Alan Splet’s Lynch soundtrack. Tellingly, the line “they broke his earmuffs” emerges among Moody’s screams. “The Morning Trumpets Failure” brings the first glimpse of the Neil Young cover, as the line “There is a town…” appears vampirically through disjointed noise bearing loose relation to Gravenhurst. We hear a little more Young on “There is a Town,” which transforms itself from Eraserhead chill-out to a mixture of Nick Cave and Hit to Death in the Future Head-era Flaming Lips.
Six tracks in, the full cover of “Helpless” arrives. It’s a beautifully malformed rendition, recalling Sparklehorse circa Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot and Lou Reed’s Berlin. One couldn’t wish for a more fitting centrepiece for the record. After this, “Svevo Bandini” is lush and frazzled with shades of Tortoise and Broadcast. “Salt” is one of the most beautiful songs of the year in a backhanded fashion, slightly reminiscent of Dean Wareham at his most serenely Velvet Underground fixated. A static bath elevates things as “Sincerely L. Cohen” meanders nicely, though its hard to decide whether to compare it to Mogwai, Four Tet, or Love and Rockets. “The Pleasures of My Life” closes the album like a mixture of Phillip Glass’ music for Koyaanisqatsi and Ben Christophers’ “Skyscraper.”
It’s a pleasure to hear an album that doesn’t quite sound like anything else. Helpless is hardly the most commercially successful or reviewer-friendly record I’ve encountered this year. But it is one of the best.
Alan R. Splet – Eraserhead OST
Sparklehorse – Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot
Lou Reed – Berlin