Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band's success story is a fun one to tell, although it's still in the early stages of development.
In 2008, vocalist/guitarist Benjamin Verdoes, guitarist Matthew Dammers and bassist Jared Price brought in Benjamin's wife Traci Eggleston and adoptive brother Marshall Verdoes to be part of their new musical project. Eggleston contributes on keyboards and percussion, while Marshall is the group's enthusiastic drummer. At only 13 years old, Marshall became responsible for the group's unusual name.
He starred in the band's introduction to the world in the form of a ridiculous PSA asking viewers to join the then-unknown Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band in the fight against homeostasis, with a link below the video directing folks to their myspace page. The clip no longer exists on Youtube, but evolved into a series of other fun PSAs about boring and technology that you can still view. They drew quite a bit of interest.
So much, in fact, that in July of that year, the group's inaugural live performance was a headlining gig at Neumos, one of Seattle's hippest venues. Afterwards, they signed onto the Dead Oceans label, releasing their debut self-titled LP in 2009. The album is made up of some of the best experimental rock music I've heard in recent years, such as the pseudo-Queens of the Stone Age shredder "Masquerade" and the multi-level "Albatross, Albatross, Albatross," a bonafide stunner.
Not unlike the volcano after which it's namedr, Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band effectively erupted across the Pacific Northwest in one scorching blow. Last summer, the fivesome put out its sophomore album, "Where the Messengers Meet." The record yielded the band nationwide recognition, though a dearth of positive reviews. Pitchfork panned the album for lacking hooks, Spin accused it of being too self-serious and Paste expressed disappointment that it didn't live up to the band's dynamic debut.
"Messengers" is weaker in some respects than its predecessor, but maintains notes of brilliance. The volcano analogy continues to apply — the second album serves as the ash settling, a dry and dreary layer of its own remnants. As the band attempts something more cohesive than its first album, it suffers a loss of excitement that made them so big in the beginning. The saving grace of "Messengers" is "In A Hole," an indie-rock masterpiece that toys with tempo and a spinning guitar riff.
"Not To Know" is a lovely venture on keyboards, a rare ray of light on the tracklist, while "Cadence" honors the band's experimental nature. "Messengers" doesn't produce any explosive rock like that found on the debut, but it's certainly not a failure. If nothing else, the album arouses my curiosity of where they'll go from here, and judging by the pace at which they've been going, it won't be long before we find out.