Help

Music

Portland, OR

Imagining the apocalyptic doesn’t seem quite as dramatic as it perhaps once did. Myriad examples of a decaying global society strike ominous tones for those paying attention. Portland, Oregon punk trio Help seem to possess a capacity for tapping into that frequency, and the band’s debut album, 2053, in turn serenades the devolving cultural landscape with an earful of its own medicine. “The lyrical content is already about everything falling apart around us as humans,” says guitarist/vocalist Ryan Neighbors, speaking to the album’s title, “but imagining things only getting worse 22 years from now is just sad, hopeless, and realistic.” Recorded at the Map Room in Portland, 2053 is a deft follow-up to Help’s self-titled debut EP, released in 2019. That year found the band—comprised of Neighbors, bassist Boone Howard (recently replaced by new bassist, Morty), and drummer Bim Ditson—receiving kudos from Willamette Week as Portland’s Best New Band, performing at the esteemed Pickathon Festival, and establishing a reputation as a formidable live entity in the Pacific Northwest. Those accolades proved artistically prophetic; 2053 writhes in focused bouts of feedback and rhythmic dissonance, through which unchecked slabs of aggro, atmospheric noise threaten to implode before somehow saving themselves, or as the opening lines of “Ultra Violent Ones” suggests, “It’s not for the money/It’s not for the art/We’re coming together/Just to fall apart.” The sonic panoramas explored from Help’s EP to 2053 propel equally aggressively, though tap into fundamentally more jolting slices of post-punk menace, allowing the structures of the songs to be built, to be occupied, and finally to be destroyed in beautiful moments of existential cleansing. That aural blueprint acts as a bit of a portal into the band’s simple, yet increasingly necessary approach: to ravage themselves spiritually, physically and emotionally during all aspects of the creation of their music. “The thing Help woke up in me was that music and art are a force, a powerful force, without an agenda,” explains Ditson. “I'm pretty certain that 2053 is the best thing I've ever worked on. I think there's a set of people out there who will hear it in the way I do, and that's cool, but I also know it's good in the way that there are many people who will hear it in a different way, and it will mean something else to them, and that's life.” Where one wailing vocal thread is pulled, a cacophony of barely bottled rage is stitched back into the mix, gifting songs like “Goodbye (Sound and Vision)” and “Fire and Ashes and Shit” particularly jarring auditory real estate. The self-explanatory track “I’m Not Happy” exudes the type of crisis of catharsis most enlightened artists should find a ready, anthemic companion within, as Neighbors growls, “I’m freaking out/you’re freaking out/It makes us feel better/I’m not happy/Whatever that means.” “Eat Off The Carpet” offers a more experimental yin to the rest of 2053’s profoundly loud yang, bolstering a trippy progression that showcases the band’s sometimes otherworldly sensibilities. “It’s weird and crazy to listen to, even as someone who wrote parts of it,” explains Howard of the album. “Musical sections and dynamic choices for which I went strongly to bat seem almost alien when I hear them again a year later.” Help’s eruption of sounds on 2053 rely on volcanic outbursts of chaotic interplay that take songs of outrage, religious scorn, self-identity and the sorry state of the world into defiant realms. It’s within those spaces that Help’s energetic live shows thrived, and through which they have only recently been able to perform live again in the Portland area, and also during September 2021’s rescheduled Treefort Music Fest in Boise, Idaho. The band is scheduled for Treefort again in March, 2022. “It was a real bummer to release music you have been working very hard on and not be able to play it live and sweat all over the place,” says Neighbors. “I never want to release music and not be sweaty.” Let’s hope 2022 is the year of getting sweaty with friends again, safely, with 2053 as a fitting soundtrack to the ongoing decline of civilization
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