Over There That Way

Heliotropes

The End Records, 2016

http://heliotropes.bandcamp.com

REVIEW BY: Ludwik Wodka

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/29/2016

Brooklyn-based Heliotropes had been an all-girl band on their debut album, 2013’s A Constant Sea, but things changed for their follow-up, this year’s Over There That Way. This time, the band is all men, except for singer/guitarist Jessica Numsuwankijkul. Musically, Over There That Way picks up right were A Constant Sea left off. The fuzzed out guitars (à la Fu Manchu) mix together comfortably alongside other more pop-oriented vocal harmonies and catchy hooks. Even though there are somewhat fewer heavy stoner rock tracks, they are still present and still rock (“War Isn’t Over” and “Dardanelles Part I” are good examples).  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The real change on this album is how some of the songs sounds more upbeat and, in some ways, more traditional. “Easy” sounds like Loaded-era Velvet Underground (and that’s a good thing). “Wherever You Live” has that classic 1950s-style chord progression, complete with saxophone solo. There is a sweetness to some of the songs that was not found on the previous effort, exhibiting a modicum of artistic growth between albums. Even with this expansion of the palette, the album is still focused and cohesive.

Starting with the cover photo of a WWII-era soldier in trench coat and cap, the songs are connected thematically by references to WWI and WWII, with suggestive titles like “Goodnight Soldier” or “War Isn’t Over” to more direct references like “Dardanelles” and “Normandy.” Strangely, neither the lyrics nor the music directly address the wars aside from oblique reference, such as in the opening of “Normandy:”  “Here we go/ To a distant shore / And we crash / In the undertow.” The song “War Isn’t Over” simply repeats “War isn't over / War isn't over / I can see it in your eyes.” Using battle imagery from the world wars as an analogue for turmoil in personal relationships is certainly an interesting approach, albeit an understated one.

While certainly loaded with strong, catchy material, Over There That Way somehow falls just short of its predecessor in terms of power and originality. Don’t get me wrong – this album is a worthy follow-up to A Constant Sea, but when you listen to the two side-by-side, the advantage goes to the predecessor.

Rating: B

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