Posts Tagged ‘New Model Army’

Chapter 22 Records – 31st March 2021

No question that these are tough times for bands and the grass roots music industry generally. It’s the smaller bands who depend on flogging T-shorts and a handful of CDs at shows who are among the worst affected: they’re not earning royalties from endless radio play, their songs aren’t being used on TV commercials or in film soundtracks, and they sure as hell aren’t covering the rent with Spotify streams.

It must be particular difficult when you’re self-styled purveyors of Revolutionary Punk Roots Rock‘n’Roll whose entire ethos is to never rehearse, but instead achieve tightness through relentless gigging. What’s more, they had just reached a new peak – and a still wider audience – with a tour supporting New Model Army before the proverbial rug got pulled from under their feet. Still, newly-signed to Chapter 22, this, their fourth album, should do their profile no end of good.

Despite what their tag connotes, this – thankfully – is no bog-standard festival-friendly folk-punk knees-up roustabout as favoured by beer-sloshing bozos just looking to whoop it up. There’s substance to Headsticks’ melee which is more anti-folk than folk, while at the same time fuelled by the fury of genuine protest music: as you’d expect from a band who’ve had Crass’ Steve Ignorant guest on a song a few years ago, and with songs like the rabble-rousing ‘Red is the Colour’, they’re left-leaning and unashamedly political. Lately, it seems everything has become political in some way or another, and even fundamental issues like being opposed to racism, or day-to-day issues like wearing a mask in shops and adhering to social distancing guidelines have become politicised, because we live in an insane world. And for that reason, what you might consider to be the more traditional politics espoused by Headsticks is welcome and refreshing. It may sound naïve, but I do genuinely yearn for the simpler times when artists, workers, and all and the oppressed people in society stood together in wanting to smash a scumbag Tory government, instead of the endless shouting that is social media. But if unity is to be regained, music is something that gives us hope. There’s nothing like standing in a room with several hundred people and standing together not just physically, but in solidarity.

Lead single ‘Peace & Quiet’ is representative: you can practically feel the fists pumping in this frenetic punky blast. Across the album’s twelve fast and furious tracks, it’s the Dead Kennedys that often come to mind, largely on account of the ultra-hyped energy, the fact that they sound like a 33 played at 45 for the most part.

Propelled by a piston-pumping drum beat, the high-octane blues blast of ‘Miles and Miles’ is reminiscent of The Screaming Blue Messiahs, while the stripped back, slower ‘Tyger Tyger’ pitches a more emotive experience, laced with strings and contemplation, and ‘Speak Put’ goes full Fugazi, with lyrics adapted from Martin Niemöller’s poem ‘First they came …’ – and it’s powerful.

While kicking against injustice and hypocrisy, Headsticks avoid being overtly preachy, and instead stick to keeping it simple and keeping it lively. It’s a solid approach, and the energy is infectious.

AA

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