Mary Timony revisits her early years to wade into the heady repertoire of Helium | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Mary Timony revisits her early years to wade into the heady repertoire of Helium 

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In the last five years or so, guitarist-singer Mary Timony has enjoyed a level of success with Wild Flag and Ex Hex that largely eluded her during her first two decades of making music—but that’s not to say her work wasn’t good during that earlier era. In the years after her wiry, mind-warping guitar work in the short-lived but superb Washington, D.C., quartet Autoclave flipped my lid, she put together her longest-running band, Helium. That combo wasn’t exactly obscure in indie-rock circles, but it certainly never got the attention of her last couple of bands. A few weeks ago Matador Records threw down the gauntlet to force some reevaluation, reissuing Helium’s small but powerful discography and rounding it out with Ends With And, a handy compendium of singles, demos, and other rarities. Cumulatively, that body of music resonates loudly more than two decades after it was made: Timony is a weirdo art-rock guitar hero, an idiosyncratic virtuoso with a note-bending psychedelic sound all her own. With bassist Ash Bowie and drummer Shawn Devlin, Helium crafted a draggy, hook-laden kind of art rock—replete with songs about dragons—that spurned empty technique in favor of convoluted structures and melodic lines that always seemed to take the road less traveled. I hadn’t heard these records in years, and I’ve been shocked how fresh they sound: listening to Timony without the high-profile foil she had in Wild Flag (Carrie Brownstein) or the deliberately stripped down ethos of Ex Hex has impelled me to happily reconsider her peculiar genius in its most uncut form. She’s joined by Hospitality’s Brian Betancourt and David Christian on this one-off tour to bring that old catalog to the stage again.   v


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