Ty Segall, Nora Keyes, Jack Name, Shannon Lay—plenty of people who’ve been in L.A. RECORD already) battalionized here as the Center for Planetary Intelligence Band, but more importantly it’s bristling with charm, personality, originality, commitment and—because this record never stops at four things when it can try five—conviction, too." /> L.A. Record

EARTH GIRL HELEN BROWN: MARS EP

August 3rd, 2017 | Album reviews

EARTH GIRL HELEN BROWN
Mars EP
Empty Cellar (out Aug. 4)

Earth Girl Helen Brown has an pretty unbelievable back story—it’s Heidi from the Bay Area band the Sandwitches, in character here as the cult-survivor ex-shaman semi-nomadic psychedelic home-taper named Helen Brown—and naturally that resulted in this pretty unbelievable little EP, a pocket epic that’s the second in her series metaphorically exploring our solar system. A future Venus might be about love, but this is Mars and Mars means war, and so this EP starts with a declaration and finishes with a wave of annihilation—yes, she researched her subject diligently. Mars is bristling with big-credit guests (Ty Segall, Nora Keyes, Jack Name, Shannon Lay—plenty of people who’ve been in L.A. RECORD already) battalionized here as the Center for Planetary Intelligence Band, but more importantly it’s bristling with charm, personality, originality, commitment and—because this record never stops at four things when it can try five—conviction, too. The do-everything-at-once spirit of the mighty Homosexuals is all over this, as is the firebright righteousness of the Raincoats, which means cracked-but-more-perfect-for-it pop songs with lightning-strike sax and undeniable lyrics. “Attention” is like a Broadcast from Fancy Space—primitive outré electronics with sentiment to compliment—while “Tommy D. and the Atomic B.” sets Eno’s Blank Frank slouching toward sanctuary in John Cale and Terry Riley’s Church of Anthrax. (Definitely think of “The Protégé” when you think of Helen Brown.) “Vanishing Spray” is the first sweet one, with NYC ’76 street-level deadpan—Lou, Patti and Tom Verlaine in “Breaking In My Heart”—swirled into gentle UK ’79 post-punk pop a la Cleaners From Venus, but “Flower of Darkness” (another A-bomb song? Or is that a “Flower of Light?”) is the real heartbreaker—what if the Raincoats had covered “This Time Tomorrow” instead of “Lola”? It’s a gentle three minutes and it gets lovelier each listen, but there’s some deep sadness resonating within—careful with this one. And then it’s the side-long last track, which could’ve been a monster cover of Sun Ra’s nuclear war except Helen Brown has a secret weapon all her own. “Last chance,” she sings, somewhere in the middle of a grinding chronological Zounds-style chronicle of war and what it isn’t good for. Listen til the very end—you’ll know when it’s safe to come out.

—Chris Ziegler