The Helmut Stein Experience Uptown Game
12-track full-length CD
You know how bad we've had it lately? Bushels-of-toxic-aural-swill bad, as our mail bin keeps feeding us slabs of unlistenable dreck. Like the atrocious metal band that has a sound not unlike the popping and sizzling one hears when microwaving a turd. Like the guy who used to be in that very good rock band, but who now has gone solo with an excruciatingly dull, touchy-feely singer/songwriter project. Like the punk band that sounds exactly like eleventy other punk bands, and those are just the ones in OC. Like the band that had a groupie e-mail us a rave, proclaiming, "Here's the next Nirvana, right outside your fucking door, and you people are just twiddling your thumbs," which would've had us feeling guilty if only the music wasn't guaranteed to empty rooms in 15 seconds. Like the bizarrely popular band that has never once moved us and is only sending us their music now because they've finally realized Mike Boehm isn't around to give them ink anymore.
But then comes an occasional sliver of gold, which we know we're getting whenever new tunes from the Helmut Stein Experience arrive. Their pedigree is immaculate, what with helmsman R. Scott coming from the late, great 00 Soul, and the music a bodacious soul-jazz cabaret—like a sweet, silky tongue kiss would sound if you could pull it off iTunes. This is their second disc but their first full-band effort, and it crackles with the loose polish of a troupe that's honed their chops with countless gigs in small rooms such as La Cave and the Continental. Everything smokes—singer April Sweeney's pained, drenched-in-sin wailing; the horn lines, which habitually zap you into thinking you've been transported off to New Orleans or Memphis; and Scott's immaculate organ fiddling, spiritual and funky, like a black church on a Sunday morning. Lyrically, it's mostly about the intricacies of treasonous relationships, with the occasional curveball (Is "Hard Ass Woman," with its allusion to chicks with hair on their nipples, really an ode to she-males?), but UptownGamereally just makes you ache for the full-on live Stein Experience. What's notto lust here?