Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Helium sings a lullaby for a baby that wants to kill you

Illustration for article titled Helium sings a lullaby for a baby that wants to kill you

In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, we’re picking our favorite songs with the word “baby” in the title.


Before supplying extra guitar snarl alongside Carrie Brownstein in Wild Flag or trafficking in the snappy garage-rock of Ex Hex, Mary Timony exuded a sleepier kind of menace as the leader of Helium. The Boston-based band emerged in 1992 amid a wash of bands that took their cues from Sonic Youth and British shoegaze, crafting walls of guitar noise they leaned against aloofly. Timony in particular had Kim Gordon’s cool, conversational lilt, employing a breathy purr that barely rose above a whisper. As Helium evolved, bringing in Polvo’s Ash Bowie and some of that band’s rhythmic snap on 1995’s The Dirt Of Luck, then taking off into full-blown Ren-faire mysticism for its final album, 1997’s The Magic City, the one thing that remained constant was that voice—a baby’s murmur that matched Timony’s ragged baby-doll wardrobe, and her childlike lyrical fascinations with monsters, magic, and myths.

Timony also loved the word “baby,” as heard in the first recorded sounds anyone heard from Helium, on its 1994 EP Pirate Prude. The opening track “Baby Vampire Made Me” (as paired with its companion second track, “Wanna Be A Vampire Too, Baby”) is a creeping, droning stunner, with Timony issuing a gory warning that she’s going to drink your blood, eat your skull and spine, and “spit them out like rinds”—all because of the “baby vampire” she has hiding deep inside her—and doing so in a bored, drowsy voice that may as well be suggesting going for coffee. She ends by cooing softly to her beautiful baby demon seed, all as those lurching, distorted guitars settle into a broken music-box jangle that gently rocks it to sleep. The song is a statement of alluringly malicious intent, a blurring of the evil and the adorable that Helium perfected over its too-short career. And while I definitely like what Timony’s done over the two decades since then, sometimes it’s a shame that babies have to grow up.