The Joup Friday Album: Helmet – Aftertaste

I had a rocky start with Helmet. In high school, when Meantime first hit, some friends and I played it out very quickly and somehow I went from absolutely loving the record to feeling as though it was stunted. At close and repeated examination it didn’t hold up to my teenage metalhead mind because I hadn’t really learned to listen for the kind of nuances that Page Hamilton and crew would become known for throwing down on their records. This stigma stayed with me for a few years. There were a never-ending stream of great bands in the 90’s, many reaching high profile status due to the “alternative” boom wherein the major record labels tried to sweep up anything they thought might be the next Nirvana, and that coupled with the rise of the indie label and my own submersion into various pockets of the underground meant that by the time Betty came out I was barely cognizant of it. Then, somewhere around 1997 everything changed.

Helmet released Aftertaste.

At first this record was not on my radar. I seem to remember a video for the single, Exactly What You Wanted that peaked my interest but other than that I missed it at first. Then, probably a full year later, my good friend Mr. Brown lent me his copy of Aftertaste. I gave it a listen. One listen led to many, many more. Before I returned the album to him I made a cassette dub of it. I still remember that cassette – Aftertaste on one side and Soul Coughing’s El Oso on the other. It was a perfect soundtrack for that time in my life, and it made both albums elemental pillars of who I am today.

At that time I rode Chicago’s Metra train into the Loop nearly everyday to attend my classes at Columbia College. I’d also ride the El elevated train to get around the rest of the city – peripheral classes at the audio building 13 blocks north, record stores, book stores, etc. During that time that cassette, Aftertaste fully awakened in me the appreciation for the brutal/subtle genius of Mr. Hamilton and crews’ songwriting. Since then I have always explained to others that with Helmet, it’s all about what the second guitar is doing. There’s some interesting tunings employed that I believe make for the emotionally-charged open chordings that dance around the otherwise tight and often confrontational sound these guys punch you in the face with, and taken together it gives Helmet a sound unlike anyone else – even the legions of raprock bands that tried so desperately to ape their formula just a few years later. None of them ever got it right because only Helmet can do what they do.

If you dig this go buy the record. Or, go to Helmet’s website and order – directly from the band – their ‘comeback’ album from 2006, Size Matters. If you like Aftertaste but lost track of the band during the hiatus period that followed it, I cannot stress enough that Size Matters is the perfect next logical musical step the band could have made and quite possibly a more refined version of the same ideas at play in Aftertaste.

Tag Mr. Whelks!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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