Review # 52
Artist: The A-Heads
Title: Discography 1982-2009
Label: Mass Media Records
So I made a trip to Singles Going Steady last week and ended up with two new records by bands that start with "A." So we'll be backtracking for the next couple of reviews. The other records were "S" and "Z" records respectively, so we'll get to them in turn.
Tonight, I'm listening to the A-Heads discography. I pick up more or less anything I come across by the UK anarcho punk bands of the early 1980s, and so, in spite of only really knowing one song by this band, I bought this. If you've heard the A-Heads at all, you've probably heard the song "Forgotten Hero," which has appeared on a number of anarcho punk compilations, including the excellent 4 cd series from Overground Records. It's a haunting anti-war song that, like many A-Heads songs, uses a narrative form to make a point about a socio-politcal issue. This is a form that works well for them. The band doesn't seem to have as coherent or overt a political analysis as some of the bands from the anarcho scene. Their songs are anti-war and anti-prejudice, and there are critiques of the mental health system and meditations on drug addiction. But, for a band called the A-Heads, there's surprisingly little on this record that resembles a full on anarchist critique, and nary a slogan to be found. I'm not sure if the band was just less political, or if they just preferred a lyrical form that doesn't hit the listener over the head with their politics, but in terms of lyrical content, this stands apart from many of their contemporaries.
Musically, this is mid-tempo 1980s punk with melodic female vocals. Some of it would have fit in just fine with the (mostly hostile) British street punk scene just as well as the anarcho scene--it's catchy, melodic, and sometimes snotty, with moments of crunchy guitars but nothing that crosses into crust territory. That makes this record a lot of fun, actually. Although "Forgotten Hero" is pretty dark, most of the rest of the record you can bounce around to. Even songs with dark themes like "Dying Man" and "Isolated" are pretty fun, musically (if you like '80s punk, at least). Probably my favorite song, musically, is "No Rule," which starts quieter and then shifts gears to become more aggressive and punky. I like that sort of thing.
An interesting note about the A-Heads-- it appears they are still active. The lyric sheet lists a current lineup and, while the individual tracks aren't dated, the title of the record suggests that at least something on this record was recorded in 2009. The record label logo on the back of the record says "stay punk, stay awake, never give up." It would appear the A-Heads take that slogan to heart. Right on, folks.
Here's "Hell Cell" if you want to check out the A-Heads.
Total songs listened: 659