Saturday, February 1, 2014

Unnatural Helpers / The Intelligence split 7” – Dirty Knobby

Eddie Schneider bought the copy of this split that the record store I worked at had, so I missed my chance at purchasing this record the first time around. Luckily the hype behind both of these bands died off so hard that I ended up being able to buy a copy for $1.50 a few years after it came out. This is one of those records where each band covers each others’ songs, but the back of the record gives no mention of this, so if you passed on buying this because it only had 5 songs that were already on LP’s, go find it. I could do without this kind of record in general, but there have been two records in the last few years that ruled: the Jay Reatard / Deerhoof split that has a brilliant cover of “Oh It’s Such A Shame”, and this 7”.
Unnatural Helpers playing Intelligence songs falls a little bit flat because what I loved about Unnatural Helpers is the pop that oozes from their lazily played songs. Intelligence write great songs with hooks, but they don’t utilize vocal harmonies the way Unnatural Helpers do, so when they force the background vocals into these songs it just ends up being kind-of-good, but not phenomenal. Hearing a heavier version of “This Is A Gift” is the highlight of this side. It’s much more chaotic sounding than the Intelligence version, and it makes you wonder what Lars’s Intelligence project would sound like if you jammed some more Mayyors down its throat.
As it turns out, Intelligence really kill the Unnatural Helpers tracks. Three songs that are pretty good on the self titled LP end up being total rock’n’roll sing-a-longs. The twisted guitar riffs that play a key part in songs like “Fake Surfers” are used exactly enough to turn these Helpers songs into beach-side romps. It could be used as evidence to show how truly talented Lars Friedberg is, or you could go ahead and say, “Well they were good songs to begin with.” And isn’t that kind of the problem with this format? It ends up being the band with the better original songs that enable the other group to create a cool track. But when your band can write sing-alongs and can’t really capture excitement with covers, you find yourself with the Unnatural Helpers side of this record (or the Reatard side of the Deerhoof split).
This 7” is worth tracking down for a few dollars, but it’s really not a great place to start for either of these great bands. I think the first LP on Hardly Art, or the “Sunshine/Pretty Girls” single on the same label would be the place to begin with Unnatural Helpers, and my favorite Intelligence records are either “Deuteronomy” or “Fake Surfers”.

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