Helium’s new album The Dirt of Luck sounds a lot like a horror-movie sound track: gloomy keyboards, pounding funereal drums, and lyrics that mention tombs, skeletons, and black angels. But the horror in bandleader Mary Timony’s songs is real–death pervades her music. Sometimes it’s a gradual death of the spirit that comes from growing up female in a patriarchal society; other times it’s quite literal: the song “Hole in the Ground” is her quietly raging response to a friend’s murder by a jealous boyfriend. Still Timony’s songs aren’t relentlessly bleak; Helium’s first single, “The American Jean,” is an unironic ode to her 501 Blues. The band’s music is as gripping as its lyrics; Timony has a gift for writing poppy melodies, but they’re rarely presented straight. Instead she undermines them by liberally applying distortion effects to the instruments and to her eerie, high-pitched voice–apparently she’s guided by the principle that what doesn’t destroy her songs makes them stronger. This is Helium’s Chicago debut. Chicago’s premier space-rock ensemble, Sabalon Glitz, opens the show along with New York’s Ruby Falls. Saturday, 10 PM. Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Steve Apicella-Hitchcock.