Kept in the dark..

Ooh, hello – amazingly I actually remembered the login details for the blog!

The new album from Headsticks landed on my doormat this week, and whilst I’ve deliberately reined back on writing it has inspired me to try to remember how all this internet stuff works. Because it’s just shy of an hours worth of excellence.

What struck me above anything is there’s some real diversity in stylings and tone from what I expected, and a progression from their previous two excellent albums (I wrote about Feather and Flame just here). The Stoke on Trent band present here a collection of songs that showcases a band really comfortable in their own skin – and perhaps most stark that I’ve not really associated with them before is a sense of playfulness and fun.

Which probably isn’t surprising for anyone who’s spent any time with Andrew (and I dare say the rest of the band, who I don’t know so well!), but where before social-consciousness and politics have been central pillars, in here we have that enhanced with a proper cheekiness – not least with Mushrooms which, whilst underpinned with a serious message delivered over a bouncy skank overlaid with sinister pixie laughs. It sounds silly written like that, it’s so catchy though!

The album opens up with When? – snarling punk guitar, machine gun drumming and rapidly delivered vocals – but then switches tone into the ludicrously ear-wormy I Love You which has a much gentler bouncier dub feel and more playful subject. I’m not going to go track by track (not least because there’s 16 of the buggers) – but for those who crave the ‘angry’ side of the band there’s plenty to get stuck into with the kind of cutting social commentary you’d expect.

And it’s as excellently done as you’d expect – Headsticks have built up a pedigree and well-deserved reputation with this at its foundation. But it’s the development that’s interested me even more – there’s a spoken-word interlude on It’s A Matter of Time, an entire track comprising a poem in Out of Fashion – they give pause for thought and reflection then you’re thrown straight into the melee of music with Family Tree, opened up I think with a recording of Boris Johnson of all people.

Even some of the serious songs like Mr I’m Alright Jack are accompanied by heart-lightening videos with comedic interludes.

Headsticks: Mr I’m Alright Jack

There’s more acoustic songs like All of the Trees lamenting the treatment of the environment (reminiscent in subject of Ferocious Dog’s Landscape Artist – more on that later, I might’ve got hold of some sneaky new album preview tracks from my principal subject matter!), then the delightfully irreverent The Song for Songs Sake, a bouncy ditty about, well, nothing! Then straight into the bleak and staccatoed When the Sun Turns Black is really impactful and much rockier and dark.

It all finishes up with Baboon Shepherd, a rambling tribute largely in spoken word form over a rumbling bass-line and drums with guitar stabs – ruminating on a fairly obscure South African cult-hero footballer, before diverging into references and tributes to Utah Saints and amusingly Sultans of Ping FC who I’ve always thought must be an influence of Headsticks (I even referenced whether the bass intro to Cold Grey English Skies could’ve been a nod to their Give Him a Ball and a Yard of Grass).

It was a relief as when I saw the track length as I worried it would have one of those loathsome spells of silence with a ‘hidden’ ending which is my personal pet hate!

So yes, in summary – this is a fabulous album, plenty of the familiar goodness for which we all know and love Headsticks for, but some brilliant diversions and unexpected changes in tones, sound, pace and mood – the album launch events are happening this weekend, which annoyingly I’ve not managed to fit into my plans – but I’m looking forward to hearing more of the new tracks than I’ve already done at Groovy 2 and the Roystonbury Winter Warmer this year already.

You can pick up the album at gigs or on the Headsticks website. And you really ought to. Their new hoodies are rather awesome too. No, Alan, you have enough hoodies. I do recommend the hats though, and that’s coming from a large-headed individual who normally struggles to find hats that will fit on their massive head!

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