Mary Timony squeezed one full solo album out of 1997's The Magic
City, her band Helium's final record Mountains was
a stripped-bare, almost minimalist collection of melodic, yet thin,
extrapolations of themes and tunes from Helium's swan song. The
record reaffirmed Timony's ability to minstrel-ize tried-and-true
rock forms with Tolkienesque lyrics and whimsical, medieval guitar,
but at the same time it kept her within the sphere of previous
The Golden Dove propels Timony to the next stage of her
development, even if it's a small push. Her second solo outing is not
a dramatic change from Mountains. The role-playing-game
lyrics, the upbeat but off-center guitar and keyboard parts, the
deadpan voice tinged with disgust and longing are all still there,
but this time out they're incorporated into songs with much more
musical and emotional resonance. They're full songs, rather than
snippets or ideas fleshed-out, professional and helped by the
presence of a full band.
Mountains, with songs a far cry from the accomplished
six-string epics that filled much of Helium's work, made people
forget that Timony is a fantastic and powerful guitarist. But she is,
and The Golden Dove slaps your face with it, bringing your
attention back to what is arguably Timony's strongest suit. It
hollers at you right from the beginning. "Look a Ghost in the Eye"
starts with a high, mean riff that becomes, with a turn in Timony's
deep, ripped-velvet voice, a loud and focused chorus. The notes she
rends from the neck of her guitar are echoey, ghostly and as defiant
as the inflection in her voice. Timony's playing is a soundtrack to a
walk in the woods two minutes after dusk, with branches snapping
somewhere in the distance and no discernible path to follow.
"Haunting" is too easy a word; "dark" would seem to suggest gloomy.
Neither word is accurate, yet neither is totally wrong.
If Timony's lyrics can seem a bit silly and overdone at times
("Through the window, the Doctor goes, in the form of a cat. Is he a
foe?" from "Dr. Cat"), the disarming strength of a line like "I don't
care about you, and whatever it is that you do/ Doing drugs, popping
pills, shouting out your window at girls" slashes through like a
machete in the brush. Like the mask Timony wears on the album cover,
these songs of fantastic creatures and hellish landscapes are, in the
end, just a ruse. An effective and entertaining ruse, for sure, but a
trick all the same.
Timony's ability to lure you into a fantasy world of danger and
deceit, and then suddenly shove you back into a real world just as
dangerous and deceitful, is a talent normally possessed by great
authors, not rock musicians. But Timony has never been just a "rock
musician," and The Golden Dove is more proof that she never