Last spring, Mitchell Tennant, the vocalist of the Welsh New Wave Art/Punk band Head Noise sent me a note on the contact form wondering if I might be interested in their new EP and I checked them out on Bandcamp and felt that they had the right stuff, but I sadly got distracted. As if you couldn’t tell, I don’t plan this blog out too carefully and usually decide the day of posting what the subject I’ll write about will be. As a simple primate attracted to shiny things, for every five posts that I ultimately write about, there is at least one that slips through the cracks. A fleeting, evasive notion. And thus it was with the music of Head Noise. To no one’s benefit. Thankfully, Mr. Tennant gave me another chance and used the form again and this time I made up for my blunder.
Head Noise: Über-Fantastique UK CD/DL 
- Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors
- 200,000 Gallons Of Oil
- Japanese Batteries
- Anatomically Correct Shuffle
- Mystery Liquid
- Airstrike 4000
- Shrunken Head
- I Eat Cannibals [yes, that “I Eat Cannibals”]
- Mr. Everywhere
- No Photo | No Film | No Telephone
- Gamma Guts
Like anyone else these days, Head Noise stepped out all guns blazing with
“Kingdom Of Crooked Mirrors.” It was an indie/disco/synthpop throbber not a million miles away from a track vibe like that of “The Walk” by The Cure. The buzzy, squelchy synths and four-to-the-floor beats made certain to get one’s attention while the vocal was delivered in a jovial, tone that vacillated between song and sprechtgesang. The band were the furthest thing from dour Post-Punk provocation [as much as we love it]. Instead, this was a band built around the sheer fun that New Wave was capable of delivering. Especially in the hands of wiseguys.
The electropop on offer here was danceable and upbeat with more than a bit of Mark Mothersbaugh’s attitude in the declamatory vocals, while not sounding a bit like the DEVO singer. The buoyant cartoonishness of tracks like “200,000 Gallons Of Oil” also pointed to a band who wore the mantle of DEVO more strongly: Martini Ranch. But they never forgot to build a serious groove. The interest of the band in obviously having surreal fun in their pursuit of rubbery New Wave tuneage.
“Japanese Batteries” began as a deliberately dinky minimal synth construction that gradually built up in sonic heft to end on a synth-punk climax with the wall of synths vying with some crunchy guitar chords to pack a wallop. More guitar laid the muscular foundation for the great “Airstrike 4000” with the drum machine and synth drone giving way to slashing chords on the chorus with some Theremin lines adding eerie tension to the vibe. Why not sample below?
I loved the witty/surreal lyrics to “Shrunken Head” that referred to Harlan Ellison’s nightmarish short story “I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream” yet managed to also reference Ripley’s “Believe it or Not” And Picasso’s greatest hit. Head Noise were nothing if not eclectic.
“Your face shows ‘Guernica’
Smothered in blueberry jam
Pillars catch fire here
So please replace via hologram.” – “Shrunken Head”
Guests Deep Hum contributed a great glitchy outro to the motorik tritone of “Intruder-esque.” Things almost got serious for a moment there and then they pulled a minimal synth cover of Toto Coelo’s infamous New Wave novelty “I Eat Cannibals!” The time the cover version was a duet between the band and guest vocalist Cat Southall as shown at left. Not just any band can go to such a goofy extreme without getting egg on their faces. It actually came off a lot better for being a mixed gender duet this time out as this version had a call and response feel to the song that fit the lyrics like a fingerless glove.
I really loved the urgent blank verse art punk feel of “No Photo | No Film | No Telephone.” This was definitely the kind of sound that only NewWave acts were capable of exploring. But the minimal synth leads over the frantic rhythm box had a very familiar ring to it; what was this one reminding me of? I swear it was an early 80s Rush synth coda of some sort! Could it be that Head Noise were the band who would dare to bridge the stylistic chasm between Rush and Toto Coelo??! The penultimate song “Comply” was a perky blend of the band’s most political lyrics and the cheerful vibe of the verse structure of Lipps Inc’s “Funkytown” for maximum brain warpage.
Head Noise were a band who, judging by their promo photos, think that a world where “rock stars” wore wraparound monovisor shades or microwave ovens on their heads in performances was their kind of place. This placed them somewhere between The Rezillos and Der Plan on the conceptual fashion scale, which is a fantastic place to be. Their electrodiscopop ala Telex crossbred with deliberately surreal lyrics and Brechtian delivery insured that no one would ever think to look to them as beacons of “authenticity.” Thank goodness. A DL in any format will set you back £6.00 [$7.67] but the band also have “hard copy” with a CD of their self-produced debut for just £2.00 more. They threaten to also make a limited edition USB drive with a magnet, sticker, badge, and live bootleg but there’s no word when that will be available. So keep one eye on their Bandcamp store. The album got released last Friday so why not purchase below? We need more bands plowing this sort of technopop furrow with such playful, yet pointed wit.
– 30 –