REVIEW: Ben Helm & The Gel Wells – Ben Helm EP

Ben Helm & The Gel Wells
Ben Help EPMy background with Ben Helm is limited to a brief conversation we shared some months ago. My primary take away from that rather hectic time, a reflection of my experience and not our interaction, is that the Ben Helm EP is not only the debut release from the titular Helm, but his first project altogether. I cannot at the time of this writing qualify the veracity of that statement (and refuse to contribute to our post-fact culture), so this may be an apocryphal story, but supposing the accuracy of my memory this is a remarkable feat. For a debut record, this is smooth as silk.

Helm knows what he’s doing. Opener On the Mend is a shining example of his pop charm, of the sort that pays homage to The ReplacementsR.E.M., or Superchunk. The riffs are chunky, but not necessarily huge, with chiming guitars and crooned vocals that has an almost airy quality to it, albeit a bit more direct than that may imply. The harmonica work on Someday and Lonesome Spell is a nice touch that adds a southern quality to the music, although I’m not quite sure how or why it feels that way. Still, it’s exemplary of the good ear that Helm has for realizing his vision, for a fantastic guitar sound, to a crystal clear and incredibly lush recording. This is a dutifully realized, regardless of whether this is his first or twentieth record, and it shows in the music.

Tracks like Partner in Crime and closer We Can Work This Out somehow balance a pensive nature with upbeat melodies, the kind of thing that you could imagine folks singing along to in the shower or on a long ride. In fact, this is particularly sunny music and the kind of thing that makes you want to just coast while you’re listening to it, an album that you put on while you’re getting things done, because it empowers you to get motivated. From a musicians standpoint, this is the kind of thing that makes me want to play my guitar at loud volumes, not necessarily to rage, but just to enjoy a nice full toned tube amp, which is to my ears always welcome.

You can listen to it below, while you’re waiting for a proper full length. Get into it. For fans of Hüsker Dü or even a little like Weezer. So heavy on the power and the pop, but never overwhelming.