Under Review

Mt. St. Helen’s Vietnam Band

Mt. St. Helen’s Vietnam Band

Dead Oceans

Review By Alex Hudson


During the grunge explosion of the early ‘90s, drummer Marshall Verdoes was still just a twinkle in his father’s eye. At only 13 years old, Verdoes, along with his older brother Benjamin and a few friends, are bringing back the rock to Seattle, a city now best known as the home of folk-heroes Fleet Foxes. This isn’t to say Mt. St. Helen’s Vietnam Band sound like a grunge band, as the group’s eclecticism is more typical of 21st-century indie pop. Many of the songs feature sudden rhythmic shifts, such as “Masquerade,” which begins as a full-throttle rocker before suddenly morphing into a woozy waltz-time chorus with sea shanty backing vocals. Similarly, “Going on a Hunt” begins with spiky Hot Hot Heat-inspired riffing, before slowing to a near stand-still during the bridge. The band have a penchant for winding, harmonized guitar leads, but these are delivered with a jittery urgency that is more punk than prog. This restlessness makes MSHVB a lot of fun, but the group sound best when they scale back the weirdness and focus on the hooks. The opening track, “Who’s Asking,” is the most straight-forward on the album, and its sugary falsetto chorus is the band’s most memorable moment. Many listeners are bound to get distracted by the novelty of a 13-year-old kid behind the drum kit, especially since Verdoes is better than your average rock drummer. But MSHVB have more to offer than a gimmick, especially if the group focuses their songwriting chops on future albums.