Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
When Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band was at the recording studio this past winter, it ripped and tore the place up in a strictly sonic sense, flaming through its set with some of the smashing-est aplomb and with exceptional bombast. The Seattle band cuts a fiery figure that pulls no punches and just keeps swinging intelligently, landing body shot after body shot, taking your breath away with a jab that feels like a parking meter or a hefty anchor to the guts. This is when they're at work, when they've chosen the sweltering route of expression, but then promptly upon completion, they're offering you a free bar of their personalized and branded bathroom soap. It looks like the same kind of homemade chunk of cleanser that Brad Pit, Edward Norton and Meatloaf were selling in "Fight Club," only mixed with honeycomb and bee extract, smelling like a potent lemon grove. It's their dual ability to be the band sweating their asses off, shredding through some wailing guitar lines and coming out smelling like a refreshing session in the shower, a tail of fresh citrus floating behind. They take behind them a tail of circus too, giving its music a mixed bag or twirls and flourishes that help to pepper their songs with infusions that continually catch you off-guard. Band leader Benjamin Verdoes never strains himself when giving it out, but it all comes out of his mouth with an electrifying sense of urgency that makes you a bit nervous, as if you might be getting caught in the wake of something frightening or that you may have to do some death-defying of your own in t-minus a blink of an eye. Most of the rescue that would be needed as a result of being an actual character in one of the Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band songs would be needed right around the chest area, where there always seems to be a target - though it's a target that nets on up to include the psyche. There's always potential crushing of it just out there on the horizon and that alone is what's causing Verdoes to act as he does, like a blaze and with a whole squadron of torches and pistols swinging right behind him. It's a sound that rings all around you, shooting spotlights to all of the little eccentricities of the arrangements - parts that sound inspired by The Dismemberment Plan, parts that are wriggling Thin Lizzy exasperations and parts that are odd and yet never out-of-place. Verdoes makes the most of his issues with the hearts that throb and stutter, that move on and those that choose to linger and hover abnormally, singing, "Burn, burn, burn, burn, burn/Our hearts are set to burn/Oh how enchanted we are," and we're left with that confounding realization: The heart, as with the rest of the body, will end up the same way for everyone - either turned into ash or buried under the ground - and yet we are so occupied, so fixated on their whims and their demands. It's a sentiment that rages through these searing and delicate tales that Verdoes and band pound through, turning them into the kinds of puzzling trouncings that At The Drive-In used to make and Modest Mouse still on occasion make. These are songs full of kicking and swinging, full of fight that seeks more eligible energy - a fire seeking more oxygen for a bigger pronouncement - and the smoke coming off of the towering inferno is that of something pleasant and dear despite the lacerations.
Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band MySpace Page
Dead Oceans Records