Published on The Deli Philadelphia – Monday, Dec. 13, 2010
Listening to an instrumental outfit can sometimes seem off-putting. There’s a certain tedium that most fall to – a recurring loop of indistinguishable murmurs, buzzes, and kicks that drone on into oblivion. Really, it can get pretty damn boring if you’re absolutely restless and need some type of vocal interaction – or if you’re just not into musical circle jerks. Fortunately, though, instrumental avant-rock trio the Notekillers fails at the ennui and mundane on their first full-length, We’re Here to Help.
We’re Here to Help was over 30 years in the making. The dual-habituating Notekillers (they’re from Philadelphia and Brooklyn) thrashed it out with the superlative no-wave instigators in late ‘70s New York City, only officially dropping the self-released 7-inch, The Zipper. The record unknowingly culled major players as fans for the trio. Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore cited the Notekillers as a “big influence” for him and others in his evolving music scene in an interview with Mojo Magazine (the trio eventually made an archival release on Moore’s Ecstatic Peace! label).
We’re Here to Help, released on Prophase Music, is both an extension of and break away from The Zipper. Its erratic behavior is more developed, but still has that experimental free-spirit which helped to shape a generation and music genre. There’s chaos and there’s refinement, zeal and calm. We’re Here to Help is a multi-layered and complex album made up of star-burst moments that fly every which way in bright spurts, but there’s still a very distinct pattern. While fierce, wild arrangements are always present throughout this nearly 40-minute effort, not every song is a sonic freak-out like the album’s definitive track, “Flamenco” – a raucous number where the guitars shred furiously to the point of a high-pitched fever and havoc is unleashed on the skins. “Eyelash” curls to the surf rock mystique that the Notekillers might be best known for, with rumbling guitars and rolling drums powering into a catchy, rhythmic melody, and if this track strikes your fancy, then face-melter “Papers” may have the angular riffs and walls of distortion that are here to help make your day. We’re Here to Help proves that the stigma of instrumental rock is something to be defied. – Annamarya Scaccia