Let’s prepare a checklist shall we? Cardinal Fuzz/Rooster, check, The Heads’ Stooges styled logo? Check, Experimental film-maker Kenneth Anger? Check. Mastered by the legendary John McBain (Monster Magnet/Wellwater Conspiracy), check. I’m sold already and I haven’t heard a note of music yet.
The Heads are a prolific Bristol psychedelic rock band who have released upwards of 20 albums to date. This album is part of the band’s Reverberations series and is the follow-up to Volume One which was released earlier in the year. What you get here is a live performance recorded at The Thekla (6th December 2001) in the band’s hometown as part of The Gnostic Bash: A Tribute to Kenneth Anger, which also featured free jazz experimentalist and label owner (Tzadik Records) John Zorn. The purpose of the event was to raise money for Anger’s long cherished ambition to make a film of Aleister Crowley’s Gnostic Mass, as well as Jon Ausbrooks’ documentary about Anger called Inside the Eye of Scorpio Rising. Were it not for the fact that I was at university at the time, as well as being relatively green about music (my dreaded nu-metal phase), I would probably have been there.
In an age where even the likes of Oasis and Kula Shaker have been tagged with the psych rock tag, it can be tricky to garner quite what the genre is. As someone who is somewhat familiar with The Heads previous output however, I can say with confidence they are the living, breathing definition of the genre, who manage to eschew all the cringeworthy associations with it ala sitars, new age spiritual mumbo jumbo etc.
you can sense the blood, sweat and passion that has gone into the performance…
Opening track KRT builds slowly with a hypnotic wall of space-rock that you would encounter on Hawkwind’s Space Ritual album before some metallic scratchy riffing comes into the picture followed by some pretty epic soloing. Unlike ‘Guitar virtuosos’ such as Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, whose output is technically perfect yet feels calculated and ponderous, there is a real heart and soul to the way guitarists Paul Allen and Simon Price play their instruments, you can sense the blood, sweat and passion that has gone into the performance.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the rhythm section of drummer Wayne Maskell and bassist Hugh Owen Morgan who do an excellent job of keeping the band grounded when Paul and Simon go off into their otherworldly sonic forays. They are key components of the band, unlike Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke of The Smiths, who were allegedly treated as ‘mere session musicians, as readily replaceable as the parts in a lawnmower’. KRT continues its near 30 minute assault, pummelling your senses and not giving you pause for breath, if the likes of Earthless float your boat then you are going to instantly fall in love with this.
The second track Spliff Riff continues the relentless intensity of KRT, I wouldn’t say there was a lot separating the two tracks, but there were moments in the former which brought to mind mid 80s period SST bands such as Painted Willie and Gone, in other words predominantly punk bands who had quirky, psychedelic and experimental elements to them. Two tracks of killer psychedelic proto punk noise from Bristol’s finest and a worthy addition to their catalogue. This wouldn’t be the ideal place to start if you were a newcomer, as the density of the music would probably leave you overwhelmed. However for long time fans of both The Heads and the genre as a whole, I would recommend picking up a copy ASAP.
Scribed by: Reza Mills