Helium

Full Discography

LPs
  • The Magic City - ole-195 - 1997-09-09
  • No Guitars - - 1997-04-08
  • Superball - - 1995-09-19
  • The Dirt of Luck - - 1995-03-21
  • “Pat’s Trick” b/w “Ghost Car” - - 1994-12-05
  • Pirate Prude - - 1994-03-08

Biography

 



The Magic City
September 9, 1997

The long-awaited second album from Boston’s HELIUM is an unexpected departure from the fragmented, angry pop of yore. Nearly two years after their 1995 debut The Dirt of Luck, HELIUM’s Mary Timony has broadened her songwriting in directions suggested by precursors of the 1970s and 1980s. Tracks like "Leon’s space song" boldly revisit the alienated, soaring keyboard sound of the Cars or Joy Division’s "Love Will Tear Us Apart", while Timony’s vocals suggest early ’80s vocalists like Kim Wilde and Debbie Harry. Other tracks venture into lengthy guitar jams more reminiscent of ’70s progressive outfits such as Gentle Giant and Art Zoyd, or Krautrock proto-electronica bands like Faust and Neu. More than this, the whole haunting epic is tied together with interlaced folk songs recalling such late ’60s folk-rock legends as Fairport Convention and Pentangle.

Without ditching her trademark wistful vocals or impressive guitar pyrotechnics, Timony has taken HELIUM to an entirely new chapter in the history of American alternative rock. Aware of its punk and new wave heritage, but by no means a slave to it, The Magic City remaps our perceptions of the recent popular music past and restores to dignity sections of the rock ’n’ roll heritage that conventional wisdom has already consigned to the trash.

Co-produced by Mitch Easter (R.E.M., Pavement), and still anchored by the rock-solid drumming of Shawn Devlin and the increasingly assertive bass of Ash Bowie (also of Polvo),The Magic City is an incredibly courageous step forward for HELIUM, and possibly the most unusual record we’ve heard all year. A landmark album that will have an impact comparable to Tapestry or The Modern Dance.

HELIUM are:

Mary Timony - guitar, vocals, Chamberlin, harpsichord
Ash Bowie - bass, Viceroy, keyboards, and everything on "Medieval People"
Shawn Devlin - drums, drums, and more drums

with Mitch Easter (pedal steel, slide guitar, mandolin, percussion) and Andrew Emmett (violin), Ken Wilmot (trumpet)

 

 

 
No Guitars
April 8, 1997

No Guitars finds the Boston trio taking a gigantic step forward stylistically and emotionally. This all-new five-song EP in fact contains Plenty Of Guitars, but also showcases Mary Timony’s fragile voice and beautifully fractured pop songwriting in far more complex arrangements. Organ, gong, moog, banjo, tom-toms, ukelele, strings and a full horn section anchored by Timony’s trombonist brother flesh out the sound and add an exciting new edge to Timony’s rhythmically juddering melodies. Produced by Mitch Easter (R.E.M., Let’s Active, Pavement) and engineered by Mitch Easter (R.E.M., Let’s Active, Pavement), No Guitars is a fabulous introduction to Helium’s sophomore sound, and a taster for their upcoming August full-length album on Matador (which will contain all-new songs again).

 

 

 



Superball
September 19, 1995

The supercool, would-be pop smasheroo from The Dirt of Luck, plus four new songs ("What Institution...," "Lucky Charm," "Elephant," and "Do You Think You’ll Die.") on the CD5 (the 7" has one extra track, "What Institution..."). Engineered by some guy from the Dentaldams (sorry, that’s Dambuilders).

We will never use the word "smasheroo" again, unless of course it is the name of a cuddly animal, such as a kangaroo that’s been hit by a truck.

Buy now! One of Shawn Devlin’s organs will be given away with a random copy of the CD!

 

 

 
The Dirt of Luck
March 21, 1995

Entertainment Weekly says Helium ought to play the main stage at Lollapalooza ’95. Too bad they don’t booking the show, huh? 1995 sees the Boston-based trio changing their sound (Dirt is a far more expansive, ambitious work thanPirate Prude ) and lineup (bassist Ash Bowie, also of Polvo, is much taller than Brian Dunton). Other pertinent data: the album was recorded at Studio Red from July-November 1994, produced and engineered by Adam "Red" Lasus.

On the heels of the "Pat’s Trick" single, we’re certain this album will make a tremendous impact, particularly if it is dropped from the roof of a big building.

 

 

 
“Pat’s Trick” b/w “Ghost Car” 
December 5, 1994

Dramatic changes in sound from the Pirate Prude EP do not disguise Helium’s essential Feuchtigkeit. Rattling sheet-metal percussion (think Still or early Cab Volt), Mary Timony’s vocals more focused but as dry and beautiful as ever, tape loops and shimmering, elusive guitar curl over two precise pop smashes. We’re not even gonna mention Timony’s angry lyrics about disempowerment and the shackles of gender. Just a hint of the greatness of the full-length album to follow, Helium’s new material is less brutal, more gripping and everyone’s favorite at the Matador office.

 

Helium have been regrouping to add new bassist Ash from Polvo, and "Pat’s Trick" was recorded virtually entirely by Mary Timony alone (is this a trend?).

 

 

 
Pirate Prude
March 8, 1994

Mary Timony’s unusually original voice floats over discomfitingly brutal stop-start song structures in an aching search for oblivion. "Less an EP than a set of three singles," says Timony. Songs about frustration, anger and disempowerment. They have toured the country, they have videos on MTV, Mary receives XXX letters every day, and still - The music just gets better!!

TIMELINE

1929 - Autoclave guitarist/vocalist Mary Timony celebrates stock market crash by leaving Washington D.C. to check out bread lines in Boston. Meets former Dumptruck bassist Brian Dunton and drummer Shawn Devlin in a Walpole soup kitchen. Shortly afterwards, the trio begins playing as a backing troupe for Jason Hatfield (who soon leaves to begin fierce war with the McCoys).

1933 - After negative review in Variety points out that "indie rock has not been invented yet," Timony and team of MIT scientists construct a time machine. Early efforts to travel backwards in time fail miserably (several researchers are eaten by dinosaurs), however a second trip, this time 59 years into the future, is a success.

1992 - Newly dubbed "Helium," the group begins playing around the eastern USA. Audiences, captivated by the unusual combination of guitar overdrive, downbeat pacing and lyrical insight, are completely unaware that the band are in fact, visitors from another time. A debut single, "The American Jean," b/w "Termite Tree" is released on Dunton’s Warped label and begins to attract so much radio and press attention that before long, the group refuse to perform either song.

1993 - Dates around the east coast supporting stadium rockers like Belly, Juliana Hatfield, Liz Phair, Polvo, Tommy Dorsey (I think this was from the old lineup) begin to attract the attention of RECORD INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS. Some of these R.I.P.’s are so enthusiastic, they pool their resources and fly Helium to London. The American Embassy secures the band’s release, however, just in time for Helium to return to home and release their second single, "Hole In The Ground" b/w "Lucy" (Pop Narcotic).

1994 - Helium mistakenly sign to Matador, confusing the label name and logo with that of Mammoth. A six-song EP, recorded with longtime fan and friend Adam Lasus (previous credits include Versus, Madder Rose and some stuff we’re not gonna mention) is scheduled for February release, then pushed back when Mary insists that her head isn’t blurry enough. Technicians correct the error, the EP comes out on March 8. A video for "XXX" is filmed and directed by former Volcano Suns/Sorry guitarist David Kleiler, and features the demolition of an entire building (thanks to the budget oversight, the band are now $2,000,000 in debt).

Mary Timony - guitar, vocals
Shawn Devlin - drums
Brian Dunton - bass

Pre-blog News

News
05/03/02 — Mary Has a New Home
Mary’s got her own new section on the Matador site. These pages will stay like this until the next Helium project. For the most current news on Mary, see above.

03/28/02 
Mary Timony Is Real
‘The Golden Dove’ preview live at Joe’s Pub, NYC

Mary Timony will be performing material from her stunning new album ‘The Golden Dove’ at Joe’s Pub, 475 Lafayette St. NYC (Astor Place, 6 train) on Thursday, April 11. Showtime is 7:30pm. Tickets are $12 (212-539-8777)

This event is open to the public (ie. you) and we strongly encourage all smart persons to check out Mary’s new songs. We think this album is her finest moment to date, be it solo, Helium, Green IV, Autoclave, you name it. But we’re supposed to say that — we wanna know what you think. 

A Brett Vapnek directed video for one of the Golden Dove tracks will be completed soon, and look for a full North American tour by Mary this spring and summer.


02/12/02 
We can happily confirm that Mary Timony’s new album is called ‘The Golden Dove’ and shall be released in May, accompanied by a tour of all the places that matter. If you live somewhere else, don’t be offended, that’s just a form of hyperbole, we meant nothing personal by it.

12/05/01
We asked for an update, and Mary delivered: “I’m in the midst of recording, I’ve done basic tracks, and I’m going to Virginia this week to record with Mark Linkus. Also look for a song on a Kill Rock Stars compilation later in the new year. I’ve also hired a band of 12 dwarves to play the bells and pipes on my record. OK, that part’s not true... I hope to have the record out in the spring. I just got two cats? Okay, that’s not relevant either.”

09/07/01
New Recordings and a Gig You Can’t Buy Tickets to 
Mary is scheduled to begin recording her new album in early November, assisted by Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse at his Virginia studio. Whether or not this is a Helium album or Mary’s 2nd solo album has yet to be determined (by her) but when we know, we’ll tell you. Mary will also be playing at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom on 11 October, along with Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks in what we’re told is an event being presented by Jane Magazine. This seems like a good time to mention that one of the label’s founders recently tried to peddle his entire collection of Sassy back issues on eBay, only to be sent a rubber check. Letters of sympathy can be sent c/o Matador. One sensible person at the label suggested that maybe we shouldn’t mention this gig as it is probably not open to the public, but lots of things aren’t open to the public. Ivy league Universities. Florida polling stations. If you have a problem with it, perhaps you should hop in a time machine and come back to earth as Jane Pratt. Or Todd Pratt.

12/06/00
The non solo point of view 
In news that will excite and thrill denizens of Matador’s bulletin board like nothing short of a Chavez sighting, Mary Timony tells us that Helium have begun writing and playing new material. No news yet on recording plans, but hey, you’ve got to write the songs first! Mary is also hard at work on new Spells material with Carrie Brownstein. 

07/27/00
A travelling musician, and a chatting one, too 
Mary is currently in the UK supporting Sleater-Kinney on their sold-out tour, but once that trip is done, she’s on her way to Olympia, WA for Ladyfest, the women’s music and art festival featuring Sleater-Kinney, Jean Smith, Cat Power, Gina Birch and many more bands, spoken word performers, film makers, etc. And gURL.com are hosting a chat with Mary on August 2 at 6pm EST. 

05/25/00

If everything works out the way we expect (i.e. calls are returned, letters are posted), Mary Timony will be playing some shows with Sleater-Kinney in Germany and the U.K., she’ll be appearing at the Lady Fest in Olympia, WA in August, and there’s some West Coast U.S. dates with Sleater-Kinney after that. If that wasn’t enough activity, there are plans for a 2nd Spells recording. 

05/12/00
The rock world’s numero uno avatar continues her U.S. tour. An MP3 of “The Bell” from the ‘Mountains’ album will be available for download at CDNow June 6th.

04/14/00
Mary and her drummer Christina Files are getting ready for a US tour, they are packing a drum kit, one guitar, two keyboards, one amp, one speaker, one violin and a bunch of duct tape. If everything falls into place, Mary should be doing some European dates this summer in support ofSleater-Kinney

03/27/00
If you’re in the Boston area on March 18, you can catch Mary Timony playing music from the amazing new Mountains LP/CD at Hi Fi Records in Jamaica Plain. The performance starts at 4pm, but if you want to show up early and spend money, they’re not gonna throw you out.

02/10/00
OK, here we go with the no fun patrol. Our plans to feature a Quicktime video of a live human sacrifice on this site once a week have hit a snag. Since a court order was put into place, we can no longer kill anyone. So you'll have make yourself happy with the next best thing -- MP3's of new and upcoming Matador releases. Cube 40 (aka Khan)'s "10,9,8,7, Launched" from the Passport CD/LP is available now. Starting next week, we'll have new MP3's from Mary Timony, Non Phixion and Console.

01/07/00
Cave-dwellers and lovers of high culture might not be aware that beatnik filmstar Will Shatner is singing in a series of TV commercials for Priceline.com that are supposedly a spoof of the VH1 'Storytellers' series. Leather-lunged Captain Kirk can be seen moaning his way through such all-time favorites as "Convoy," "Freebird," "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" and "I Want You To Want Me," backed by an all-star band featuring Mary Timony and Carrie Brownstein. To tell you the truth, Mary and Carrie didn't actually play on the songs, they're just miming. But Whitesnake did the same thing in their popular videos and you don't see anyone making fun of them. Anyhow, these mind-blowing advertisements were directed by video auteur Phil Morrison, whose credentials include numerous promotional clips for Yo La Tengo, many episodes of Comedy Central's "Upright Citizens Brigade," and a series of bizarre horse racing spots featuring Rip Torn. Is that enough name dropping for you? 

11/05/99
Mary Timony (of Helium) is in the studio, hard at work on her forthcoming solo album entitled "Mountains." Joining her is Christina Files (formerly of The Swirlies) on drums. We’ll be bringing it to you on March 7th.

07/30/99
Matador’s Tenth Anniversary Compilation video to be released on VHS and DVD on September 14 will include the video for Helium’s “Honeycomb.” “Everything Is Nice” is the title of the compilation. The DVD version will also include "What’s Up, Matador?" in its entirety. How’s that for value?

01/25/99
Mary Timony has hooked up with drummer Christina Files and they're going to start playing shows, including a bunch on the upcoming Sleater-Kinney U.S. tour. Expect a Mary Timony LP out in September or thereabouts. Mary has also recorded a 7" (and possible CD-single) with Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney) that will be coming out on Kill Rock Stars this spring.