HELIX – Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge (1984 Capitol, 2009 Rock Candy reissue)
If you’re from Canada, then chances are you already know how to properly respond when somebody requests of you to “Gimme an R!”
You give them a fuckin’ R!
To quote Ricky from Trailer Park Boys, “Helix was a wicked concert. Fuck I sold a lot of dope at that concert. They had good lyrics, like ‘Gimme an R, O, C, K,’ and then the crowd yells ROCK really loud. Now that’s a fuckin’ concert.”
Bob Halligan Jr. wrote it, but Helix made it legendary. In turn, “Rock You” put them on the map. It’s pure arena rock: “Don’t just sit there, come on get up and move!” With a riff, a catchy tune and a shout-along chorus, “Rock You” was custom built for 1984. The Pepsi Power Hour gave it regular play, and the boys toured relentlessly. Helix’s rep as a down n’ dirty hard rocking band was secure. The music video scared away my neighbor, David Dolph, a kid from across the street whose very Catholic parents wouldn’t let him listen to rock music or watch Dr. Who. Instant street cred!
“Rock You” opened Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge (their fourth LP) with a punch. “Young & Wreckless” followed with a kick in the ass. This chugging rocker is all about a good time. Strangely enough, this track somehow frequently ended up on Kiss bootleg CDs. Bootleggers most likely confused it with Kiss’ own “Young and Wasted” from 1983’s Lick it Up. Needless to say, if you find a Kiss bootleg claiming to have an unreleased song on it called “Young & Wreckless”, it’s not Kiss. It’s Helix. And it kicks ass.
“Animal House” is a Helix concert classic, a bar-bustin’ rocker with a sweet slide guitar licks from Brent “The Doctor” Doerner. He and gui-partner-in-crime Paul Hackman formed a formidable and underrated duo. They supplied Helix with a seemingly bottomless well of riffage and tasty guitar hooks. Meanwhile lead howler Brian Vollmer was in peak voice, driving the whole thing home. Next up is “Feel the Fire”, basically a re-write of “Heavy Metal Love” from 1983’s awesome No Rest for the Wicked LP. Though the songs are similar, both kick equal amounts of ass, so we will allow some self-plagiarism. The first side was finished off with a real sledge: “When the Hammer Falls”. It’s a real headbanger in the classic sense, fast and loud.
“Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” kicked off the second side, a Crazy Elephant cover that became one of Helix’s most notorious music videos. There was a TV version and a uncensored cut with full frontal nudity. One of the girls in the video was an underage Tracy Lords. Whoops! Meanwhile, a 13-year-old me couldn’t take my eyes off the TV! (A classmate of mine called Ian Johnson was known for his tall tales, and took credit for giving Helix the idea for the video!) “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” was one of those instantly catchy songs that seemingly everyone dug, and check out Doerner’s killer solo.
The shot with Doctor Doerner kicking the lightbulbs is possibly the coolest of all time.
Helix want to tell you what turns them on in “My Kind of Rock”, but I think it’s the biting riffs. Not a bad tune, but Helix have done better. That’s just filler before the ballad “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want”, a cover of A Foot in Cold Water. Helix’s take is remarkably true to the original. It’s considerably softer than anything else on the album, but that’s the function of a ballad on a rock album. Vollmer’s performance helped make it a Helix favourite that’s still played live in concert. Another track called “Six Strings, Nine Lives” is the only tune that should have been excised. Good chorus, but without a song to go with it. One of the best Helix originals was saved for the closing position: “You Keep Me Rockin'”. Dark and edgy, it’s a heavy and memorable tune to end Helix’s best selling LP.
Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge is a good record, but as is so often the case with the “big hit” albums, it’s not their best. No Rest for the Wicked is the one to seek out for the “all killer, no filler” experience. Razor’s Edge has some essential cuts, but a couple fillers too. If you’re thinking about picking this up, the wisest purchase would be the 2009 reissue by Rock Candy. This remastered disc contains rare photos and liner notes including an interview with Brian Vollmer. It also has three must-have bonus tracks: Live versions of “Young & Wreckless”, “Rock You” and “Animal House” from the uber-rare promo EP Live at the Marquee. Since Helix were (and are) known for their blitzkrieg live shows, these tracks are well worth having on CD.