Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band

As you may or may not summise from their name, Seattle quintet TMSHVB (for, errr, short) are a mischievous bunch. Naming rights were given to then 13 year-old Marshall Verdoes, as a reward for improving his drumming sufficiently to form a band with his brother/adoptive father (depending on which blurb you read) Benjamin. With obscure name in place, TMSHVB set about creating a buzz for themselves - issuing a number of Public Service Announcements before making a sound available to the wider public.

When those sounds were set free, first in the form of self-recorded and released EP Weepy and now in their debut self-titled full length LP, the mischief remained very much front and centre. Co-produced by Scott Colburn (with Arcade Fire and Animal Collective to his name) TMSHVB walk a tidy line between slick and slapdash, playful and professional. I would guess that Marshall is no longer 13 years of age, as he spares no snare, keeping hard time with the wayward structure of most of the 11 songs that make up the album he titled. Like a more mature Spinto Band (a category which technically every single band in the world falls into) TMSHVB’s tunes are driven by fun and good times - a refusal to be limited by anything as square as traditional structure.

“Who‘s asking?” opens things up nice - with a choral ‘Oooh Oooh‘ heralding in a tune evidently about a disagreement between Ben Verdoes and an old flame. All nice and jaunty then a pair of lead guitars appear from nowhere, perform a quick Brian May-esque dual, then disappear off into the night, allowing the tune to return on its original way and pace. “Masquerade” has those May guitars starting proceedings, building a tasty riff, which this time is broken down into a Waltz after a minute. That’s not to say this is Vampire Weekend type boundary busting novelty fayre, Mt St Helens are indie and no mistake. And they do it well. With obvious talent, they keep the energy high and the mood light, sample lyric from “On a hunt“ “I’m going to spear the mighty Giant Squid, I’ll Steal it’s ink, to write you letters of my adventures.” In amongst all this hyperactivity, slower tracks such as “A Year or Too” or 7 minute string-tinged closer “On the Collar” hold their own - rounding out the album nicely.

Forget the hype. Let the music speak on their behalf.