Helicopter Helicopter apparently has a few fans out there. Six months after the four members got together, in the spring of '98, they'd already been signed to Lunch Records, which released their demos in the form of Squids and Other Fishes. Then someone at MTV decided one of Helicopter Helicopter's tunes belonged in an episode of the network's animated series Clone High. As long as one isn't required to speak the prolific, ever-touring Boston pop outfit's name aloud too often (the popular abbreviation seems to be "H2"), its charms are not completely imperceptible, nor are they obvious.
On its fourth full-length release, Wild Dogs With X-Ray Eyes, H2 has attempted to drop a happy-bomb on us, but it seems to have missed the mark, sort of. There's no denying that talented people worked on this record and that guitarist/vocalist Chris Zerby has a way with churning out lyrics that convey plenty of whimsically detailed imagery and heartfelt honesty. There's bounce and personality to the music that can't be overlooked but not enough sparkle in the delivery to leave anyone speechless or dancing uncontrollably. The overall sound of Wild Dogs is well-crafted, and producer/engineer Matthew Ellard takes measures similar to those he prescribed in projects with Weezer and Tanya Donnelly, resulting in quirky three-and-a-half-minute stabs at the hearts of card-carrying indie-rock aficionados everywhere. The guitar tones are chunky but sweet, and the harmonies supplied by guitarist/vocalist Julie Chadwick receive proper highlighting. Unfortunately, no amount of knob-twiddling can add punch to songs that never had it in the first place. It's interesting to note that Chadwick's stocky crooning actually does more to supply beef to the vocal mix than the thin, slightly over-affected vocalizations issued forth by her male counterpart. Many listeners will wish she did more to lead H2's mission, but she fills the supporting actor's shoes squarely and dutifully. Throughout the disc, discerning listeners will wonder when the real songs are going to start, when the shining will blind them, but they probably won't be terribly offended by the rewardless wait, either.