Tag Archives: Unnatural Helpers

A modern day Mudhoney: Unnatural Helpers Cracked Love and Other Drugs

Forty seconds into “I Don’t Belong to You,” the opening track on Unnatural Helpers’ Cracked Love & Other Drugs, Dean Whitmore declares “My ears have blisters.” That statement more or less sums up how you’ll feel after listening to the band’s 15-track, 26-minute Hardly Art debut and it’s a very, very good feeling.

The record is chock full of short and sweet bursts of rock that feel so vital and visceral that you can practically feel Whitmore’s sweat dripping out of your speakers. Unnatural Helpers play fast, dirty and loose and the result is music with distinct Northwest grit perfect for a punk rock sock hop. The band is the closest thing Seattle has to a modern day Mudhoney other than, well, Mudhoney and that’s not something I’m saying with the typical heavy helping of hyperbole that plagues most music journalism. Actually, the modern day Mudhoney comparison is easy to make considering the band’s connection to Sub Pop Records (Whitmore works there) and the raw power of its music.

Adding to the album’s Northwest flavoring is the mostly invisible hand of former Fastback Kurt Bloch who handled producing duties. I say mostly invisible because Bloch chips in near the end of the album with a guitar fueled by feedback and fuzz on the 90-second “Tell Me That You Wanna.” Elsewhere on Cracked Love & Other Drugs Kinski’s Chris Martin plays guitar and helps out on the keys. Also of note is Whitmore’s Hardly Art labelmate Kimberly Morrison from the Dutchess & the Duke. Her sweet vocals on tracks like “Sunshine/Pretty Girls,” which is perhaps the best song on the album (download it for free here), is the honey to Whitmore’s vinegar and her bass chops throughout the record give the group a formidable rhythm section.

Whitmore, the primary creative force behind Unnatural Helpers, is of the rare breed of musicians known as the singing drummer. Knowing this you can’t help but wonder if his ear blisters are a nod to the “Helter Skelter” blisters on the fingers of the world’s most famous drummer. In the fashion of the hardest and heaviest song in The Beatles catalog, all the record’s songs are of quick and catchy and therein lies one of the album’s few flaws. You almost feel cheated as listener when such great down and dirty gems like “Head Collector” and “She Was your Girlfriend” and tracks with singalong choruses like “Wayward Eye” and “Vox Humana” clock in at less than three minutes. It would be great to hear what Whitmore and the rest of the Helpers would fare creating something in the four-minute range.

However, in the end the less-is-more approach serves Unnatural Helpers well. That quick-hitting, rapid-fire assault of rock is part of what makes this record so great. By the time you think to yourself ‘Hey that was a really short song,’ you’re too busy rocking out to the next track on the record to even care. Unnatural Helpers play rock music for the kids who forgot to take their Ritalin and this fast and furious approach provides a great soundtrack for the ADD-riddled youth of America.

In a city where bearded folk rock has made its way to the forefront of the music scene, Unnatural Helpers is a refreshing jolt of loud, raucous, good old fashion rock ‘n’ roll. The fact the band is on Hardly Art(one of the most bearded labels in town) is an added bonus which shows that music from Seattle still has some cojones . Cracked Love & Other Drugs is an album that will make your head want to bang, your toes want to tap and your ears want to slamdance, which is likely the source Whitmore’s blisters.

PHOTOS: Mudhoney, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth & Unnatural Helpers @ Neumos 11.13.09

Mudhoney, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth and Unnatural Helpers brought back the ’90s at Neumos Friday for the book release party for Michael Lavine’s Grunge. I just filed my review with the folks over at Crosscut and it is awaiting editing. I will post it here when it is online. Until then enjoy the below photos by local photographer Alex Crick.