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Mary Timony: Just Like Starting Over

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: May 24, 2005

Mary Timony
w/ Medications, Bombardment Society
May 26, 9 p.m.
Sokol Underground, 13th & Martha

With a new record label, new band and a brave face, Mary Timony is launching a second career in the music business.

Most indie music purveyors know Timony from her halcyon days as the frontwoman of Matador Records band Helium, a group that reached its critical apex with 1995's The Dirt of Luck. Timony would record one more album with Helium before setting out on her own as a solo artist and redefining her style, which would ultimately be her undoing at Matador. Instead of the tried-and-true pop crunch heard on Helium discs, Timony's debut, Mountains, preferred more delicate, almost medieval-sounding minor-key dirges.

"I think after Mountains (Matador) kind of gave up on me a little bit," Timony said from her home in Washington, D.C., a few days before leaving on the tour that brings her to Omaha May 26. "I don't think they were fans of the record."




Relations with the label became stormier after 2002's The Golden Dove, which continued on the same path as Mountains and failed to catch fire with fans.

Timony said she found out that Matador had dropped her only after she began gearing up to make the follow-up to The Golden Dove. "I called Chris (Lombardi, founder of Matador) to tell him I was ready to record and discuss the budget," Timony said. "That's when he told me they weren't going to do another record with me. They had already made the decision, but never let me know. It was hard times for about a month, and then I realized this could get interesting."

With her Matador ties slashed, Timony decided to take a different approach with her next album. "Since I was on my own, I said, 'Who do I respect most that I could get to record?' I fell into this really awesome group of people that I never would have worked with had Matador still been around."

The group included old D.C. friends Devin Ocampo (Medications, ex-Smart Went Crazy, Faraquet), who became Timony's chief collaborator, and Fugazi's Brendan Canty, who produced the recording sessions at legendary Inner Ear Studios, the proving ground for such bands as Minor Threat, Rites Of Spring, Fugazi and The Dismemberment Plan.

Released April 19 on D.C.'s Lookout Records, Ex Hex sports the same snap and bite that made Helium float so effortlessly. Songs like the poppy "Friend to J.C." and snarling "Hard Times Are Hard!" combine Timony's girlish low-fi charm with early-'90s Sonic Youth abrasion both in tone and structure. Timony even seems to vocally channel Kim Gordon from time to time. On the other hand, don't look for traditional Sonic Youth noise orgies here -- Timony and company are more interested in putting listeners in a trance with their chiming, mantra-like cadences than bludgeoning them with feedback and distortion.








"It was hard times for about a month, and then I realized this could get interesting."








""I just got burned out on the really slow, dreamy type of music I'd been playing and felt like kicking ass."



Why return to Helium's indie-rock stylings after all these years? "I just felt like rocking out on this record," Timony said. "I just got burned out on the really slow, dreamy type of music I'd been playing and felt like kicking ass. Devin was a big influence in getting the energy level up."

So much so that the only member of Timony's touring band is Ocampo on drums. "We have a lot of fun playing live," Timony said. "It's like a tennis match, we really push each other."

Despite going from a major-indie to a minor-indie label, Timony says she hasn't noticed many differences in her music or life.

"There was a lot more money at one point playing with Helium, but in terms of my own creative process, not much has changed," she said. "It feels like I'm starting over in a very positive way. I haven't lost a lot. I lost something that wasn't working."

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Published in The Omaha Reader May 25, 2005. Copyright 2005 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.