Helicopter Helicopter – Wild Dogs with X-Ray Eyes

Helicopter Helicopter
Wild Dogs with X-Ray Eyes

Boston’s Helicopter Helicopter is probably sick as all hell of having to read review after review comparing their brand of earnest pop rock to hometown heroes The Lemonheads, but one listen to “Helicopter Fight Song,” the first track on their new LP, Wild Dogs with X-Ray Eyes, makes the comparison difficult to avoid. The verse is a three-chord head-bobber driven by a strummed acoustic guitar that leads the song into some power chord distortion and a seriously danceable chorus layered over with the female vocal that brings the song (and most of the songs on the album) to life. Even the inflection and rhythm to the words have a little Dando affectation to them. But enough about that. H2 (as they are sometimes called) aren’t ripping anyone off and their sound is hardly confined to a familiar hat tipping to It’s a Shame About Ray.
For one, the group’s vocals, a shaken (not stirred) cocktail of male and female melodies and harmonies far surpasses most bands’ ability to make such a drink taste so good and make a song glow so effortlessly. What that was supposed to mean is that the combination of the two vocalists is the key to their songs, and they do it as well if not better than anyone around. The hooks are flawless and dressed to kill. He might remind one of Ben Kweller’s easy, cool-kid approach, while her’s is a thin voice that rings with honesty. Neither has a voice delivered from the heavens, but that’s what makes them so good . . . together they demand all your attention.
Something must be said too about the quality of their lyrics. Personable, accessible, but not boring or unoriginal, they have moments where they could actually read like almost respectable poetry. No, really, some of them can. From “Waves Roll in to Boston”: “Waves roll into Boston / but something isn’t right / it’s quiet on the docks / on the streets beneath the buildings . . . Trains pull into stations / spill their cargo out / hunters and gatherers / heads of secret corporations / animals, lonely kids / workers and invalids”
And this is in a catchy power-pop tune? It’s not John Berryman, but it’s certainly not Green Day. There’s never a forced rhyme, the images are fresh and vivid, and they reveal a depth usually vacant from toe tapping power-pop that might just be the saving grace for Helicopter Helicopter. For as the music and arrangements are nothing new or particularly challenging (some are even downright predictable), those wonderful voices singing words that deserve to be heard are the reasons for going back to the record. It’s what might make H2 relevant, in the sense of their songs having any staying power.
This record certainly has appeal, but perhaps it’s at its most appealing when it hints at what Helicopter Helicopter could be capable of if they pushed their boundaries a little bit, artistically speaking, and traded in some of their safety for some risk taking.