Album Review: The Heads – Reverberations Vol. II

When I first heard The Heads’ music I was busy with a colouring book or whittling a stick or something equally mundane whilst I was listening to John Peel as I regularly did back in the mid 90’s and it wasn’t until about halfway through the track that I realised I was listening to something unforgettable, I put down whatever it was that I was doing and poised myself with a pen to write down the band name so I could get a copy of the track. It was ‘Spliff Riff’ by The Heads and I had to have it. As it turned out, the track was not included on their debut LP as I found out to my dismay when it arrived in the post some weeks later. Back before the internet you had to get underground music from mail order catalogues and fanzines. If it was available in Our Price it was already too commercial and a sell out.

When I first read about the Heads they were described as a cross between Hawkwind and the Stooges, it didn’t make sense to me at the time but now it does. This latest in a long line of live recordings and session outtakes releases does sound like it could be from 1972 and musically would mix in nicely with Hawkwind’s Space Ritual and I do keep expecting ‘Born To Go’ to kick in at any moment, but rather than interrupt the barrage of fuzz guitars with the occasional catchy chorus The Heads focus purely on the experimental jam side of things. The Heads seemed to drop all attempts at songwriting after the first LP and just let the music take them off on a Kosmiche Musik journey into repetitive jams, fuzzbox frenzies and long psychedelic freakouts. The Heads are not Hawkwind but on this new release it’s almost like Dave (Brock) hasn’t turned up yet and the other 47 members are warming up and having a good time being a bit more loose without Brock’s conductor’s baton restricting things to bourgouis concepts like ‘songs’ and ‘chord structures’ if you walked in half way through you might think it was just some thunderous racket, the peaks and troughs are subtle despite the noise and a Heads concert is something best appreciated from the start to the finish.

The Heads have only done about four official albums but they are a collectors dream/nightmare, they seem to put out a CD or a cassette of live tracks and rehearsal outtakes every other month, there must be 50 releases with the same titles in a different order but sounding entirely different. This release, Reverberations vol 2 is yet another of those but whereas some previous versions could maybe have been trimmed with a bit of quality control this new Cardinal Fuzz released LP is definitely worth hearing. The 30 minute version of live regular ‘K.R.T.’ blends seamlessly into a really excellent ten minute version of the aforementioned ‘Spliff Riff’ which is usually the encore track when they play live and rightly so as it is arguably their best tune and they really do seem to be at peak performance on this particular occasion.

The occasion was recorded live at the Thekla (6th December 2001) as part of the ‘The Gnostic Bash: A Tribute to Kenneth Anger’ A filmmaker and follower of Aleister Crowley, who was a fascinating historical figure, do look him up but be warned that he  will lead you down a rabbithole of insanity so perhaps don’t go there. The Heads played on the same bill as John Zorn to a backdrop of Anger’s movies, no doubt a cross between a hammer horror and a deeply symbolic avante garde and abstract dreamscape. Sounds like it might have been a really good night. It would be another four years before I got to see the Heads perform at this very same venue as they rarely tour and gigs are sporadic. If you do get chance to see them get there early and grab something from the merch desk. It will likely be very limited edition. This LP has probably already sold out on pre-order but not to worry it will no doubt be coming out again in six months on an array of different colours, until then you can hear it in full on Bandcamp.

Review by Andy Jesse

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