Review: Helen Love- Smash Hits (Alcopop!)

Posted: June 13, 2016 in Reviews

Smash Hits cover art

A somewhat hidden treasure in the music world is the Welsh bubblegum sensation Helen Love. They have been covered by The Queers (“The Girl about Town”) and Ash (“Punk Boy”), but maybe they haven’t gotten the recognition they deserve. The new album is called Smash Hits. Both the title and the album cover are referencing the British pop magazine with the same name. The band still has their signature sound, a mix of Pop Punk, bubblegum and new wave. The opening track “The First Welsh Girl in New York City” is infectiously catchy, and with its synthesizers and timeless melody, makes you want to sing along. The female and male vocals makes me think of the Rezillos or even the Buggles. The album, like most of their catalog, is packed with cultural references, both lyrically and musically. Most of the references are to the Ramones. The straight up Pop Punk track “We’ve Got a Formula One Thing” takes the “Hey ho! Let’s go!” chant from “Blitzkrieg Bop” and mixes in Blondie references and alludes to “In the Sun” and their cover of “Denis(e)”. This is not the first time the band has shown their love for these two New York groups, one of their most known songs is “Debbie Loves Joey”. The Ramonesmania doesn’t stop with that song, there is also a song called “You Can’t Beat a Boy Who Loves the Ramones”, a New wave track that includes samples from the movie Ghostbusters. This might be the first time I’ve heard Ghostbusters and Ramones referenced in the same song. One of the album’s strongest tunes is the tribute to X-Ray Spex’ Poly Styrene who died in 2011. The intro sounds just like Van Halen’s “Jump” and the chorus reminds me of something as well. There are also, obviously, plenty of X-Ray-Spex references in the song as well. The chorus goes “We were germ free adolescents/Cleanliness was our obsession” and there is also a reference to “The Day the World Turned Day-Glo”

The most punk song on the album is “Mario Kart Grand Prix”, while “Spaceboy” sounds like it’s straight out of the 80’s and while it’s maybe my least favourite song on the album, I still enjoy it. “Sheila B Devotion” almost sounds like an A-ha song, and Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers also got their tribute song “Long Live the Modern Lovers” with a Surf beat and horns. They also reference themselves a lot, like in “We’re in a Band That We love”. They also do a great cover of Sheila E’s “The Belle of St. Marks”. The auto tuned synth pop song “Stardust and Glitter” is a great closing track and might be the best song on the album. It has such a nice melody and it sort of reminds me of the Poly Styrene tribute a bit. The great thing about the album is that the catchiness never stops and there are so many references, both in the music and in the lyrics that it eliminates the boundaries of plagiarism and originality. The whole album bases itself on post-modernism and intertextuality. It’s the best album I’ve heard from this year. It grabbed me from the start and hooked me. I’m not sure if it’s a grower or if it will always stay this catchy, but it’s definitely a good time!

Check it out: https://alcopop.bandcamp.com/album/smash-hits

RH

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