One of the more trickier aspects of writing music reviews is what do you do with the band’s press kit? As a writer on a site that tries to use the voice of “the fan,” the usually end up being folded into fancy airplanes to be tossed through the air during
procrastination the creative process. But I have to be honest: when I read the press kit for Elias and the Error, I was tempted to just publish it as a long quote, dust my hands off and call it a day. I mean, how do you explain the depths of Help Yourself better than the subject material of the album (the artist himself)? So without further ado, here are a few key points:
“This year, 21 million Americans will not seek treatment for their mental illness due to stigma. Even in the tradition of social media, there are things we’re encouraged not to share… Presented as a fervent confession over 11 tracks, Help Yourself details [Elias] Gowins’ combat with depression, suicide, anxiety, identity, gender dysphoria, and the night he was left stranded in front of a mental hospital… Help Yourself brazenly confronts the listener with the most rejected composition ever framed — the mirror. Despite denial, these expressions of confusion, anger, bravery, and pride are reflected in every human’s journey.”
See, this is incredibly important to know before you dive into Elias and the Error. Sure, you could enjoy the electropop sound that was cultivated with collaboration with members of KMFDM and of Montreal (to name a couple). But in the pop-disco-industrial carnival ride of emotional savagery, there is a microscope that is looking at the human soul; a diary with manic scribblings of personal suffering and brutal honesty, with Elias and the Error brandishing the key.
There are the autobiographical “As I Was Going to St. Clair” about the aforementioned (to put it lightly) drop-off at the mental hospital and “Let the Music Go” in which Gowins struggles with moving on past music to “the real world” before reading a letter that his music saved a life, and thankfully “will never let the music go” and “will play a thousand shows.” There is the powerful-yet-bizarre “Invective Vows Implied Consent” and industrial grunge “Zero-Son, the Mercurial” that make up an amazing one-two punch in the middle of the album. I specifically brought up of Montreal and KMFDM as the first song plays like a dark dream of Kevin Barnes and “Zero-Son” has enough distorted guitar to make Günter Schulz proud. After ten tracks of catharsis, the album closes on the pop-punk “Unfamiliar Optimistic View” leaving the listener on a little bit of safer spiritual ground. Through it all, Gowins’ vocals sound like the second-coming of Gary Numan, which plays into the subject matter masterfully.
While Help Yourself was a solo recording effort, the live act is another story. On stage, Gowins is accompanied by Sancat on piano and synthesizer, Zak Keith on guitar, and Mike Bianchi on drums. If you are in the Ohio area check them out and report back, please. A great studio album is only made better by knowing the live act is even better. And if you’re not in the Akron area code and in the need of some 21st century industrial electropop, download Help Yourself at bandcamp. You can name your own price, but drop down at least as much as you would spend on a cup of coffee. This album will get you through the day as easily as a dark roast would.