The Heads - rkt! - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Heads - rkt!

by Sean Hewson Rating:8 Release Date:2018-05-25
The Heads - rkt!
The Heads - rkt!

rkt! is the latest in the long-running Rooster (The Heads’ own label) reissue series. This 3 LP set (two CDs) holds the first three releases that The Heads put out on Rocket Recordings - from their debut split 7” release (with Lilydamwhite) in 1998, to their SESSIONS 2 12” from 2002. All are long sold out and highly collectable releases in their own rights. This album was compiled by Simon Price and remastered by Shawn Joseph. It is probably a failing in me, especially as I’ve handed out several 10s and 9s to their other projects, but I didn’t really get The Heads at the time. It is possibly time for a re-evaluation. 

Spliff Riff (of course it’s called Spliff Riff) features one clean guitar and one filthy guitar, played by Paul Allen and Simon Price. Hugo Morgan’s bass sounds huge and Wayne Maskell on drums is more than equal to it. Guitar solos rain down on us - Mudhoney-esque and drenched in Wah-wah. If this is what I’ve been missing, I’ve made a bad mistake and it’s time to dig the CDs out. It’s fitting that Maskell and Morgan are now in Loop, as Neil Mckay and John Wills are the only other rhythm section that play this type of music as adeptly. Spliff Riff is an incendiary opener - just over 8 minutes of one galloping riff and many scorching solos. No secrets about the influence on the next track as they have named it Neu 75. Morgan starts this one and is soon joined by Maskell. Feedback heralds the arrival of the guitars on what is essentially a much more overdriven version of the Neu! blueprint. One chord, repetition, what’s not to like? If you like this kind of stuff for 10 minutes (and I do), you’re in for a treat. The guitarists do struggle to stick to the brief and throw in the odd surprise. Morgan’s presence on bass also adds another dimension as he occasionally wanders away from the two-note riff. We’re down under the three minute mark for Disappear Into Concrete as Paul Allen treats us to a Hawkwind-like interlude on his Audio Generator. Unlike Spliff Riff and Neu 75, Filler does not accurately describe the song. It’s a furious attack, like the opening songs on Allen’s latest Anthroprophh album. The vocal is totally buried, but it works. Jellystoned Loop is a murky, slow track with – as the title suggests - a Loop drum pattern. Odd voices come and go and the volume fluctuates. It lurches on for 15 minutes. The sound problems make it the first track not to immediately engage. It sometimes sounds like Crazy Horse at a windy festival. 

The second half of the album is taken up by four long tracks, each taking up a side each. Planet Suite is the first up. It has an atmospheric opening (basically, noises and talking). Slowly a bassline and a drumbeat take form. It is super slow and has the space of Kandodo’s record with John McBain. Slowly it builds as Allen and Price become more involved but, over the course of 18 minutes, it does drag a little. Long Gone is more like it. Fading in with the whole band mid-jam. All the instruments sound nasty. The bass riff is essentially one note with occasional swoops. Guitars and audio generators duke it out for supremacy. Halfway through it suddenly speeds up and then slows back down, like Neu! on their second album. When it all settles down again Maskell introduces a new drum pattern. It is a more satisfying jam than the two tracks that came before. The third record is taken up by krt parts 1 and 2, both 21 minutes long. Part one starts out slowly with Maskell and Morgan laying down a simple rhythm. The guitars are cleaner with the occasional bit of tremolo. Occasionally it takes a slightly jazzier turn - possibly due to the lighter touch or the chords being used. This gives the track more of a Post-Rock/Psychedelic feeling. Maskell in particular is in great form here, lightly pattering around his kit. It ebbs and flows a little but it is essentially a lovely piece and a welcome change of pace. Part 2 is more unrestrained with the rhythm section chugging along like Can whilst both guitarists cut loose. It is a fitting end to this predominantly ferocious album. 

With a compilation of this nature there is going to be some variation in quality but all-in-all The Heads deliver. They are a terrific-sounding band when they are at full pelt so the two weaker tracks are only because they either can’t be heard or are not at full pelt.

 

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