The Weird Weeds Help Me Name Melody

[Autobus; 2010]

Styles: art rock, progressive, indie pop, drone-rock
Others: Deerhoof, Xiu Xiu, The Teeth, Spiderwebs

The Weird Weeds have spent a fair amount of time in the bridesmaid’s shoes. Initially a threesome composed of Nick Hennies (percussion/vocals), Sandy Ewen (guitar/vocals), and Aaron Russell (guitar), the Austin group’s early works were both too structured to occupy the realm of ‘freak folk’ and too poppy to keep them out of being truly experimental, while their early (and loose) associations were with more widely known acts like Charalambides and Deerhoof.

But being out of the limelight in a city that presents itself as musically open-minded and diverse has allowed The Weird Weeds to quietly hit their stride with Help Me Name Melody, their fourth LP (and second for Autobus Records). Although contrabassist Lindsey Verrill joined in 2008, this is her first recording with the group. The Weird Weeds do revel in not making things “easy,” such as leaving four instrumental tracks untitled, providing minimal annotation on the cardstock sleeve, and including Josh Saunders’ collage cover art, replete with cribbed images from the Joy of Sex. But that very act of obscuring is curious, considering that Help Me Name Melody is their most straightforwardly rocking date yet.

A short, minute-shy piece called “More than a Bit” introduces the set, combining overdubbed strings and percussive orchestration with campfire vocal sway and jaunty guitar-bass pluck. It’s a sunny overture to a 40-minute textural and emotional hayride, a near-polar opposite to the ensuing minimalist instrumental, which is perhaps the closest The Weird Weeds will ever get to a phase-shifting motorik groove. There’s a high and lonesome wail to the catchy “I Ain’t Got No Family,” a train-whistle vocal quartet moving through permutations of loss (cruelly rejoicing?) atop Hennies’ cymbal floes and glints of Opal-like guitar wash. “Baby” begins with a dry slink, metronomic tom ricochets outlining a story of neglect, while the second half’s wistful and detailed folksiness is heralded by knotty progressions, feedback, and biting percussion.

Lyrics, of course, aren’t necessary in The Weird Weeds’ turn-on-a-dime moods — toothy repetition, droning arco bass, and Hennies’ gestural conduction from the drum chair give the first side’s closing piece an ornate progginess. Bubbly thrum and open-air ring bolster ethereal, disconnected images on “Underground,” which turns into aggressive post-punk clatter midway through its two minutes, then giving way to the tense martial lope of “No Blood” and its bleached evocations of woe. Following the final instrumental, a droning comedown that blends elements of Spacemen 3 and Rex, the set closes with the upwardly weary space rock of “Sun Comes Up,” capturing both preciousness and a sense of blues. Dark and naïf, psychedelic and plainly outlined, Help Me Name Melody is a collage of feelings and textures that never completely settle, their motion ultimately quite beautiful.

Links: The Weird Weeds - Autobus

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