Post-rock blog darlings Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band recently returned to the stage after an extended hiatus (they hadn't performed since 2010). Now they've got a new EP coming out as well, and next Friday, they celebrate its release at Columbia City Theater. Those who remember the glory days of 2008-2009 will undoubtedly be excited for their return, albeit in a slightly toned-down form. "Warm Bodies," the EP's single, is a somber, acoustic ballad that explores the pain of human existence, while opener "Best Bet" shows the spark and swagger that made their first album so compelling. "The Day" exhibits an almost dub sensibility in its pumped-up bassline. Singer Benjamin Verdoes' versatile vocal performance, at times ragged, at times sensitive and sad, completes the hypnotic overall effect.
Read on for a taste of Prehistory, and an explanation of why their second album got such a bad rap.
The songs on Prehistory are mellower than 2009's energetic-bordering-on-frenetic self-titled debut and more in the dark, moody vein of 2010's "misunderstood" (read: critically-maligned) Where the Messengers Meet. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, as the widespread bashing of that album was certainly due in part to the weird groupthink that inevitably follows a bad Pitchfork review.
In fact, the band's music and vision is consistent across all three releases. It's the tide of critical opinion that's changed. In 2008, reviewers loved their elaborate arrangements and complex, multi-part song structures. In 2010, they were tired of that model. Unfortunately, the band themselves have no way of controlling how people perceive their music, and therein lies the danger of getting picked up as a buzz band-- another thing they couldn't control. (The negative critical response obviously upset the band, as they went so far as to put out a video this year that explained the concept of the album... two years after its release.) Whether their songs will wear better critically in 2012 remains to be seen, but if you're a fan of their previous releases, you'll find something to love on Prehistory.
Sound on the Sound presents Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band with Wintersleep and You Are Plural Friday, June 1st, at Columbia City Theater.