Headsticks new album ‘Feather And Flame’ makes the perfect call to arms. Rebecca Sowray reviews for Louder Than War and finds their musical call for change undiluted.
So, Headsticks, a second album eh? A challenge for any band; how to build on the direction you’ve got direction; that identity. I saw this band first in a support slot. At a gig that I nearly didn’t go to. Grinned through the first song and through the rest of the set till my face ached. They have an irresistible energy live that translated perfectly into a first album – ‘Muster’. (LTW review here: Muster)
So a second album; ‘Feather and Flame’, eleven tracks of stepping away; an invititation to your own path; to dance, shout and cry for change and to grow new roots.
Headsticks are folk-punk or maybe punk-folk, perhaps rock-folk-punk; a face you know in the street and had forgotten, maybe, how much you missed those stories. And most of these songs tell stories; march on folk tradition with a revolutionary energy. Taking them away from the running order, the album turns, for me, on ‘Old Folk Songs’. A narrative yarn that pulls you in; binds. Trademark Headsticks stuff, lots of space between guitar sounds, bass as a moving, reactive structure, not a single thing overdone.
‘Old Folk Songs’ offers an off-kilter heroine, verses written in rhyme that turn convention on its head, draws you into a scene, as invited, where a band plays, an old folk song. There’s a redrawn ‘Go Move Shift’ that stands in the middle of the political battle lines, in the fight for public spaces; what we own and how we share. It is heavy with angst and stands the longest possible way from hand wringing; a call to action. They dip lyrics in double meaning and turn the sound on its head for ‘Cold Grey English Skies’. Now over in folk-rock territory. Here’s a track that leans on what the band has built, gently self-referencing, working on their own history. Not a cry now, but a howl of despair. Bass dominates, melody throws sharp highlights, percussion becomes a front line (in both senses), lyrics and vocals are pure incitement.
There’s nothing wasted in the whole album, no corners cut. It’s a keeper; a battery for hope under cold grey English skies. Get out and see these guys, buy the album, stand against the tide of cynicism and despair.