Mary Timony is finally getting the credit she’s long deserved for being a guitar player and songwriter of rare vintage. There was an entire Pitchfork article devoted to that very subject, with folks like Sadie Dupuis and Timony’s Wild Flag bandmate Carrie Brownstein singing her praises as a shredder and innovator. Much of that came in the wake of Timony’s work with Wild Flag and Ex Hex, her brilliant power-pop band with Betsy Wright and Laura Harris.
But where she truly came to the fore was in the ’90s, when she was the singer/guitarist for the art-rock trio Helium. During the band’s short time together, their two albums (1995’s The Dirt of Luck and 1997’s The Magic City) cut a dazzling path between the harder-edged work of her riot grrrl contemporaries and the more tender explorations of folks like Liz Phair.
What Timony shares with all of these artists are songs that spell out her personal frustrations, particularly with the men in her past who treated her like a prude or a plaything. That she meshed them with mystical imagery (dragons and unicorns make prominent appearances) only confused some critics who wanted to frame her as a lost faerie princess. But as the music proves through all its knotted-up time signatures and mucky guitar tones, Timony was entirely earthbound and shouldn’t have been as far removed from stardom as she remains.
The tide could be turning in that department, if the euphoric response to the recent vinyl reissues of Helium’s albums are any indication. Or the news that her show at Mississippi Studios—where she will perform a full set of Helium tunes backed by members of the band Hospitality—is completely sold out. If you’ve slept on Timony all this while, it’s long past time to wake up.