Wednesday 13th December

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Nick Helm Is F*cking Amazing – Album Out Now

| Comedy, Music | 13/04/2016

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By Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

As we revealed in February, alongside writing new stand-up material and reading through scripts for the next series of Uncle, Nick Helm’s been busy working on his second studio album, titled Nick Helm Is F*cking Amazing.  The album’s out now and fans of Helm, and rock music in particular, are in for a treat.

While not as consistent as his 2013 album, Hot ‘n’ Heavy, the best tracks expertly fuse Helm’s humour with musical authenticity, perfectly treading that fine line between originality and pastiche.  And it’s great to hear him occasionally move outside his rock safe ground with homages to the great and good of twentieth century music, including Elton John, Queen and The Beatles.

Some of the others tracks deliberately deliver more to music, than to comedy, fans, leaving you waiting for a punchline that never comes.  Still enjoyable, these are likely to work better live, where Helm’s stage presence will bring their lyrics to life.

To test this, you can still get tickets for this Thursday’s All Killer Some Filler at the O2 Forum Kentish Town, where Helm will perform his hits and five jokes in what he’s billed as the “greatest live event ever attempted”.

Words of WarningNick Helm

There are three things to make clear about this album at the outset.

1. Although bookended with rock, the rest is varied – winding through folk, country and pop – and marries new tracks with some Helm first performed a long time ago.  Unlike Hot ‘n’ Heavy, it doesn’t follow a theme or storyline, which could be a strength and a weakness.

2. The language is adult.  And by ‘adult’, I mean indulgently and joyously juvenile.  So if your mind naturally rhymes ‘China’ and ‘sick’ with anything other than ‘vagina’ and ‘dick’ (shame on you) then you’re probably best sticking with Coldplay.

3. Helm’s tongue is planted firmly in cheek throughout.  As made clear in our recent interview, Nick Helm doesn’t think he’s f*cking amazing: far from it.  The exaggerated bravado is simply an Alice Cooper-inspired trick to overcome insecurities and do what Helm was born to do: entertain.

Helm Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll To You

And a degree of bravado is needed to pull off some of the hard rock numbers dominating the beginning and end of the album.  Even though Helm often opens his shirt mid-performance, you can’t be a navel-gazing rock god.  For fans of the genre, there are enjoyable nods to groups including Kiss, Guns N’ Roses and, of course, Thunder, given the band’s Luke Morley plays lead guitar on This Means War! and Sh*t Out Of Love.

Nick HelmPerhaps the best rock track is What The F*ck Is This?, which could easily serve as an anthem for Millennials.  It starts by listing everything wrong with the world: starvation, war, corruption, inequality.  But, whereas earlier generations would have suggested a solution (even if nothing grander than peace and love), Helm ends with a manic, sweary but tuneful repetition of the song’s title.  If that doesn’t sum up an era, I don’t know what does: we care, but don’t know what to do about it.

Of course, the main danger in recording this much rock is you risk being labeled as a British Jack Black.  Still, there are worse things to be called.  And besides, that overlooks the diverse work forming the filler to this musical sandwich.

Quite Some Filler

In between the rock and, well, a hard place, there’s a lot to enjoy as Helm strolls through music history in a style reminiscent of Flight of the Conchords’ self-titled album.

All Time Low is a great White Album-era Beatles tribute.  Even Elton John and Paul Simon might have cause to smile at Helm’s homages to them in It Doesn’t F*cking Matter and Who Needs Friends.  Love Holds the Power highlights just how difficult it is to match Freddie Mercury’s vocal range.  And Helm enjoys letting loose Chas & Dave-style in Admin (“I don’t want a job in admin, I don’t want to be on 16 grand a year.  I don’t want a job in admin, you can take your job and stick it in your rear … Oi!”).

But the highlight has to be No One’s Gonna Love You,  a duet initially in the style of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, the latter role performed by comedian Rachel Parris.  This is Helm at his best: very funny, observant, crude, cynical and catchy.  It begins with Helm and Parris making avid declarations of love, before gradually pointing out each other’s physical imperfections, bathroom habits and annoying traits.  By the end, Rogers and Parton’s love song has gone, leaving only MacGowan and MacColl’s slanging match.  Even within a single song, Helm can’t resist incorporating multiple musical references.

And in some ways this characterises the album: maybe it tries to do too much, but that’s sort of the point.  Helm’s used this album to showcase the fact he’s not a one-trick pony, taking advantage of his current popularity to delve into the depth and breadth of his creative capabilities.  It’s a brave decision and one which overall succeeds.

Nick Helm Is F*cking Amazing is available to buy here and will soon be available on iTunes.  Stay tuned for coverage of this Thursday’s live show at the O2 Forum Kentish Town, All Killer Some Filler.  At the time of going to press, tickets are still available here.

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