There are in reality few truly innovative acts left in music that manage to wow the audience beyond the point of novelty. In the ‘post‘ musical wastelands where genres have been fractured and subverted by every permutation imaginable, the ability to stand out from the crowd is a tough gig. As frazzled glam rockers Love/Hate once declared ‘It’s okay to be a cliche, everything under the sun, has already been done’.
Redhill, Surrey, UK’s Trevor’s Head have consistently kicked against this notion over the course of their thirteen-year existence, releasing three albums that have very much managed to create an eclectic blend of stoner, prog and DIY punk attitude that refuses to be pigeon-holed; capable of smashing you in the face with a brick or tugging at the heartstrings, often within moments of each other.
Back with their latest album, A View From Below, out on one of the most innovative labels of the last few years Salford’s APF Records, the band look to further push the boundaries of their eccentric, but extremely captivating sound and create one of the finest and sharpest weapons in their arsenal.
For the uninitiated, Trevor’s Head are the power trio of Aaron Strachan (bass, synth and vocals), Roger Atkins (guitar and vocals) and Matt Ainsworth (drums, synth, flute and vocals) who have had the merest notion of flirting with all manner of styles and combining them with a songwriting nous that has produced some absolutely stellar tunes. Having first come across their Sleepstate track (from 2018s fantastic Soma Holiday album) on one of the many generous free samplers of the APF Records roster, I was immediately hooked and had to discover more of this crazy, talented three-piece.
After a tumultuous five years, this new offering is in their own words, ‘a reflection of the hardship that many have endured over the past few years and continue to endure now’ and shows a noticeable growth in structure and dynamic sensibilities even by their schizophrenic standards.
Kickstarting this diverse journey with Call Of The Deep, the band ignite with striking and powerful riffing, that gives way to almost Alice In Chains-like delicate harmonies that chop and change with angular directional switches, oscillating between the more plaintive vocals and the gruff, aggressive delivery. As the track develops, it dazzles with a sublime solo that leads to an impassioned and soulful melodic breakout, like an anguished cry, before they once again return to a bass-heavy groove.
Under My Skin rolls in on a kind of pounding, almost ‘70s, glam rock stomp, and the crazed and playful vocal build to a huge shout-along chorus of the title. Never settling, the track veers off into an effect-laden vox sidebar which opens up into a languid instrumental complete with fretboard workout. Once again, the tender, pleading voice returns, articulating a deep ache in the soul before they finish with classic rock aplomb.
Cascading rhythms and tumbling percussion mean that Grape Fang turns on a dime, refusing to follow a linear path. Seemingly unsure whether they want to caress or cut you and smattered with almost frustrated profanity, the spikey edge can’t prevent Trevor’s Head from pulling out a mini odyssey with catchy singalongs and a deceptively heavy proto-punk driving, needle in the red, charging stoner rock feel.
capable of smashing you in the face with a brick or tugging at the heartstrings, often within moments of each other…
The longest number at nearly twice the length of the other tracks, the complex Elio starts with shimmering psychedelic guitars as the blissed-out sounds of the vocalists combine and blend to create a floating atmosphere. Incorporating violins and mellotron in a film score-like feel, it morphs into a doomy passage underpinned with bass and robust drumming that retains the power of the band, despite the false stops and starts they throw at you.
After this, the pace lightens and picks up with Rumspringa, the unique vocals, including a female guest spot, fuel the up-tempo, choppy chug complete with samples, and flashy blues licks that is followed up by the heavy, moody off-kilter bad trip of What Got Stuck.
This latter is a driving, prog-based number featuring some dazzling instrumentals as it seethes with dissatisfaction. When the band introduce the beautiful vocal refrain, it is like the sun breaking through the clouds on a stormy day before the menace returns.
The punk snarl of A True Gentleman seems like a knowing contrast to the title; snot-nosed and belligerent, the band races through a twisting and turning number that portrays the feel of that sketchy guy shouting from the bus shelter with a cheap bottle of gut-rot cider in hand, lunching erratically and inconsistently in a manner that defies predictability. Amid the danger, they once again provide that they are not to be taken for granted and a tuneful pulse emerges, hypnotic and almost danceable.
In a (Trevor’s) head-down sprint to the finish, they bring back the frenetic punk pace while retaining that jazz-like disregard for the rules of convention. Reeling back and forth between fury and moments of serene beauty, the track can have you raging with manic head banging before reaching skyward, palms open imploring the tranquillity to hold you in its embrace.
A View From Below contains all that fans of Trevor’s Head would have come to associate with a release. There are more changes of direction packed into its thirty-seven minutes than a day out at a theme park, but remains a great rock album.
The band embrace their hybrid styles and gives them back to the listener with studied intelligence. Never once do they stray into the territory of making a ‘wacky’ sound that will provoke a visceral reaction from the audience; every left turn contributes to building a captivating soundscape that punches with hard jabs when needed and you’ll want to return again and again to this complex and intriguing album to appreciate its many qualities.