Album: Copper Blue
. . .
Kicking off with a super tight Malcolm Travis snare roll, “Helpless” is the probably the poppiest song on Copper Blue, a veritable ear candy hookfest that is impossible to get out of your head.
And why would you want to? Anchored by an incredibly short and simple guitar hook, “Helpless” lets Mould’s infinite guitar sustain carry it through the chorus, which opens the song, always a great trick.
Another time, time after time
You make me feel so helpless I
I never tried to change your mind
I keep it to myself, it’s
It’s one of his catchiest choruses, with the recurring hook of “you make me feel so helpless I” making it seem like he’s so fucked up he can’t even finish the thought.
“Helpless” is one of those songs that’s actually slower that it feels like, strutting through the choruses and letting Travis double-time on the verses.
Sometimes I’ve got to tell you
Is it this time I’ll tell you
We’ve got to go to places
Somewhere I don’t mind, it’s special
But it’s the ending of “Helpless” that puts it over the top, as Mould hits the pinnacle of his popcraft by blending two things together. The first is his singing “I feel so helpless IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII” over and over and over, the multiple Moulds on the overdubs sounding utterly lovely. I mean, for Bob Mould.
Then, after he sets all that up, he switches up the guitar hook that’s been driving the song, a move that’s as shocking as it was inevitable, and winds it around the “I feel so helpless IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII” creating an absolutely gorgeous swoon.
“Helpless” was neither the first nor last great pop song that Bob Mould ever wrote, but shockingly, it was the highest-charting song of Bob Mould’s career. I mean, it didn’t trouble the actual U.S. pop charts, but it was a smash hit on alternative radio, making it to #5, on the Modern Rock Tracks chart and kinda sorta breaking Sugar in the U.S., though the best Copper Blue did was #46 on the Independent Albums chart and #8 on the Heatseekers Albums chart, whatever in the hell that is.
On the other hand, Sugar did break pretty big in the U.K., where Copper Blue made it to #10. So that’s something.
“Helpless” Official Music Video
“Helpless” Live on the BBC 2 Late Show, 1992
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