Album Review: Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

By on Tuesday, 3rd May 2011 at 12:00 pm

Fleet Foxes describe themselves as a “baroque harmonic pop jam”. This is a statement fully reinforced by their eponymous self-titled debut, which enjoyed huge UK success and managed to reach number 3 in the Top 40. It was so successful that one of their major influences, songwriter Neil Young, invited them to support him on tour. They were described as “the next great American band”. Suddenly the ‘baroque harmonic pop jam’ was hitting the mainstream hard and expectations for everything they did became extremely high. Their second effort then needed to be something special, something even better, something that wouldn’t see them pigeon-holed as a one trick pony.

The sad fact of the matter though is they failed at this with ‘Helplessness Blues’, a record that promises so much but in actuality delivers upsettingly little in a painstaking 49:57 minutes. I was a big fan of the first record and I will definitely admit that I am a fan who heard ‘Mykonos’, then bought the album, not the other way around, but who can blame me, ‘Mykonos’ was a first taster of a band who made Mumford and Sons’ style of bluegrass back to basics look…well, dull.

The underlying theme of ‘Helplessness Blues’ is dark and from first song ‘Montezuma’ is littered with eclipsed clichés. ‘Bedouin Dress’ sounds like as mopey as mopey could be as lead singer Robin Pecknold tells us how he has “borrowed all my lonesome life”. There are a few saving graces in the form of ‘The Plains/Bitter Dancer’ and ‘Battery Kinzie’, which go far enough to save the album from being a thoroughly poor record.

Pecknold tweeted late last year that he was making a “troubled album” and after listening through, it’s difficult not to realise exactly how troubled it must have been. ‘Helplessness Blues’ is a Fleet Foxes album to the core and though I may have been expecting some kind of experimentation and difference, it’s hard to differentiate between this and their first effort and for me, well I just expected more from “America’s next best band”. My advice is, even if you liked the first album; buy ‘The Suburbs’ instead.


‘Helplessness Blues’ is available now.

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