Usually, you would associate the words, “The Heads” as the collective term for the musicians involved with a certain seminal new wave group from the 1980s. However, the gathering of which I am referring to is the little known 90s stoner-rock outfit from the wonderfully quaint city of Bristol. This group have been plying their trade and offering their unique sound to all and sundry for over 20 years now. However, this review is not to plug a new offering from The Heads but revisiting to where it all began with a reissuing of their début album “Relaxing with….”
Before we delve into what made the album have such a prominent impact back in the mid 90s, you will be delighted to be informed that, as with most reissues that are floating about at the moment, this one comes with a second disc bloated with extras including select tracks from the band’s visits to the legendary Peel sessions which is where they gained much exposure.
You can definitely detect, from the poignant beginning of the opening track and the snarled vocals, that you would have found this band in their youth looking ‘doe-eyed’ at the front row of an Iggy Pop and The Stooges gig. It is a really impressive opening to the album but you can understand why this band did not get to the dizzying heights of their 90s Britpop contemporaries; Blur, Oasis and Suede to name a few. The Heads are clearly a band that is not comfortable fitting into a niche in the market, that niche being heavily indie-influenced back then. On the contrary, you will find this band jamming in the back surrounded by a haze of sweat and smoke, bucking the trend of the times.
The raw and untamed mood transcends seamlessly into track two, “Don’t Know Yet” where the group get their teeth into a grinding rock anthem complete with catchy riffs and a throbbing drumbeat that stimulates the need to nod and tap certain parts of your anatomy to its mantra.
“Chipped” certainly steps up the aggression a level with distortion effects ruling the soundwaves. Like an angst-ridden preacher, the vocals pulse underneath the rhythm of the music to a fantastic effect. The Heads are not afraid to experiment with their sound and although we may only be on the third track, you know instinctively that this group would be a force to be reckoned with.
We get to see a slightly mellower outing with ‘Slow Down’ where the rhythm coarses through the song like it is providing a soundtrack for a striptease scene at some shady club in Las Vegas. The band is certainly adept at evoking stark imagery where you can really picture what the track is trying to convey.
As soon as the bass notes of ‘U33’ ring out, you know that you are going to be treated to another grinding slice of rock and you do not leave disappointed. The beat is certainly catchy and once again, The Heads utilise their impressive arsenal of musical and vocal sound effects.
“Television” is a short and sweet outing and is made for the live stage. It cannot be denied that there are underlying grungy tones running through this track tinged with black comedy, it is certainly one of my favourites.
The following two tracks “Woke Up” and “Widowmaker” help to showcase the talent of the Heads further. The former brings together a snide song fraught with punk and metal sentiment before the latter relies on the bass once again to drive the music into overdrive with another headbanger which leaves you with nothing short of being impressed with The Heads’ diversity.
The penultimate song “Taken Too Much” carries on from where “Television” left off but I can only describe it as a meeting of the minds between The Doors and Nirvana as you are delivered a creative mish-mash of classic rock and grunge sound.
Now, what to say about the ending track “Coogan’s Bluff”? Well, the word ‘epic’ does not cover its magnitude. This jam clocks in at 45 minutes long as The Heads certainly leave you something to remember them by. I must admit that it is a pretty ballsy move for the band to do this as many of the music community could have seen this as a self-indulgent direction. However, it really conveys to you what the band is all about; being experimental, progressive, providing a raw live experience and giving the opportunity to get lost in the music.
Any of you followers of Britrock worth your salt should check out this reissue and familiarise yourself with an act that may have passed you by all those years ago. The guys are still playing to avid fans across Europe so it is not too late for you to experience it.
Words : Barclay Quarton