KNOX NEWS (Knoxville, Tennessee)
'I'll Have What She's Having' • The Tuna Helpers (Mimicry) • Rating: (three and a half stars) • By CHUCK CAMPBELL
There isn't going to be any greater general enthusiasm for the Tuna Helpers than there is for Tuna Helper, but the trio from Austin, Texas, is likely to offer deeper reward to those who indulge in "I'll Have What She's Having" than Betty Crocker can provide with "Cheesy Pasta" or "Creamy Broccoli." Sisters Adrienne (lead vocals, guitar) and Bethany (bells, keyboards and backing vocals) plus pal Khattie (drums) go deep into a lo-fi world of twisted dreams, weaving gothic tales of toys gone wild and kittens and children in peril. And all the while, strings and various "instrumental affectations" escort Adrienne through mad-girl vocal flips and operatic swells. No, it's not coming to a Top 40 station near you. But this is the kind of indie release that creates a world that is both bizarre and distinctive enough to enchant a select following. It worked for Rasputina, though the Tuna Helpers aren't quite so accessible as Melora Creager's "cello rock" outfit. On "I'll Have What She's Having," the trio engages in a burial fantasy set against the choppy strings of "Hold This," strolls through a horror-themed funhouse on "Wait and See" and conducts a demented carnival on "Askew." It's a bit precious at times, but the darkened scope of "Circus Song" is ominously affecting, and the tinkling, music-box strains of "The Stars" have strange emotional punch. The lyrics fit right in. "The witches have gone out to breakfast, eating frogs and snakes and bat-wing cakes," Adrienne exclaims on the creepy children's song "Blueberry Head," and she aptly sounds like she's singing in a metal box on "Haloing Moons," delivering lines like, "Her Jack's in the box/He's been quiet for days/Her Jill has a skill/With running away." Then there's the one about the sea monster that lives in a river, cuddling and singing lullabies to guppies while fearful fireflies oh, never mind. The point is, this is an alternative to anything else you're going to hear this year.