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Below Radar

  Helen Stellar  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:
  Brett Spaceman  

Time was, Helen Stellar were a below radar band. These three guys couldn't catch a cold in their adopted LA, having relocated from their native Chicago. Now, they're the subject of their own LA story. A fairytale, rags to riches transformation that now sees the dream-pop act being discovered by Tom Petty and Lindsey Buckingham fans as a result of appearing on the soundtrack to Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown. Yeah, don't adjust your screens. You're reading that right. Cameron Crowe! There's a guy who knows how to make use of music in film. (Singles, Almost Famous, Vanilla Sky) And lucky you io, the track that got all those lofty movie execs all in a lather, is on this EP.

First up, Flutterby is a standard Shoegaze workout that revisits the early work of Ride and Catherine Wheel. Delay and reverb are the order of the day. After this, Helen Stellar shift gear into bliss mode. Built around a single theme of "this time around, you can be anyone", io is all languid warmth. With this being the only lyric in the song and the only one to be reproduced on the sleeve, it isn't difficult to see how it must have appealed to the maker of Vanilla Sky. After the deceptively retro Flutterby, io shows the bands potential for modern day relevance, and I love its sparse use of piano.

Diane is a breezy slice of pop with a knife behind its back. A break-up song, from what I can gather, it pours sugar over the top of its bitter message. Be warned then, Diane's barbs are as feminine as her hooks. Then it's full circle as fourth track Temporary solutions returns us to a world of effected pedals. A classic distortion-ridden closing track.

Below Radar makes a good, solid EP. Not quite life-changing, but no disappointments either. I often consider EPs the ideal vehicle for effects bands such as Helen Stellar. Like Ride and Slowdive before them, four songs is arguably the ideal sitting. The tester is always in trying to make a full length long-player. This will come. As I understand it, Crowe is behind a compilation album of the bands early work. After this the acid test. I think they're up to it. If they go on to have a career arc half as interesting as the aforementioned Catherine Wheel, we'll all be very happy indeed.

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