[sic] Magazine

Muarena Helena – Fierce Pale Hen

The name Muarena Helena may well be a literary allusion I’m too thick too get but for anyone in the same boat it’s not the name of anyone performing here, just the band moniker. Can’t help with the title either except to say it’s bloody awful. But it’s certainly an unusual beast that awaits the listener.

Stereolab-like opener “Long Flat” mixes Gaelic melancholy with Garage simplicity. It is rather beautiful. Considering this must be labeled “Indie” it’s a few soundtrack artists that come to mind when comparison is required. None more so than John Barry meets Fire label Pulp track three. I’d tell you the title but it is ridiculously long and annoys me. Suffice to say it sways like the Midnight Cowboy theme. The Birds arrive at the 2 minute mark (not the Hitchcock soundtrack though, real bird noise. Bloody obsessed with birds, this lot) followed shortly by the vocal. When you have them pigeon-holed (sorry) as twee waifs they go near Sigor Ros stadium prog with We’ll Think Of Yetis (titles aren’t their strongest suit). This builds from quieter melodic beginnings to an orgasmic explosion that peaks and rolls to a conclusion.

The short instrumental He Moved In On Monday has shards of guitar firing out over percussion that could be from Get Carter’s train journey. The breadth of material is impressive but frustrates a continuous listen – the next track Gangland Hand Gestures (surely a more appropriate title for the preceeding track!) has woodwind that would sound like something that Vivian Stanshall or Kevin Ayers might have used on a melancholic whimsy. The older listener might think Fragment sounds like the Cardiacs, a younger one The Arcade Fire but you’ll get the idea. Both those bands are eclectic to the point of schizophrenia, not quite prog. There is certainly a touch of Psych and Cambridge sound on this album too and the second half exists in this area before giving over to the finale of Moderate To Good, Occasionally Poor eight minutes of indulgent mood music that at least has the wit to expose itself in its title.

It’s certainly an album that will go into my collection, it requires more plays than a reviewer has time for and as I HAVE TO give it a damn grade – 7/10