On their eponymous debut, Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band deftly weaves epileptic riffs and mathy guitar solos into a glittery soundscape. It’s familiar, something like The Shins, and songs sometimes bleed into one another.
Fortunately, each track tends to veer off-road mid-song, taking weird instrumental scenic routes that save the Seattle-based group from ending up an indie rock Xerox. The minute you think, “Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard this before,’ you get a song like “En Fuego,” which starts out with shimmery rock before it slows to haunting Spanish guitar and ghostly backup vocals. By the time it kicks back into its previous rock ’n’ roll landscape, the song’s on fire.
In “Masquerade,” the waltzing melody and ethereal “ahs” and “las” create a fairytale sheen, sinister and dreamy like a Tim Burton creation or lost tracks off the Labyrinth soundtrack. In fact, guitarist Benjamin Verdoes’ sultry snideness in “Cheer for Fate” evokes David Bowie as the spandexed Goblin King perched on staircases floating in the air.
But the best part of the album is drummer Marshall Verdoes (the 14-year-old ward of Benjamin), whose dramatic cymbal splashes and knock-knock-knocking beats make him the backbone and personality of the band. (Erika Fredrickson)
Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band plays the Badlander Wednesday, April 15, at 9 PM with Dream Team and March of the Black Queen. $5.