Kept in the Dark – Headsticks (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

Punk is an odd beast, it’s never really been in the mainstream (preferring to sit behind the rock and indie albums and remain your dirty secret) yet it’s never gone away. There have been regular incarnations where bands, inspired by The Ramones, Sex Pistols and The Clash, have reinvented the music to suit the topics – or trends – of the day. We’ve had skater punk, Celtic punk, pop punk, garage punk and ska punk and the word ‘punk’ has lent itself to anyone who has a message to tell where the message is perhaps stronger than the music that delivers it so it’s no surprise that punk has remained relevant with so much going on politically.

Headsticks, a four piece band from Cheshire play something they describe as “revolutionary punk roots rock n roll”, I’m not sure if this is a precise description or not, from what I hear on their impressive 16-track album (that’s right, you get a lot of bang for your buck here) falls into three categories; punk rock, ska punk or acoustic rock. So if any of these flavours are your thing, read on.

Reggae and ska has often blended well to punk, done properly it manages to deliver the message without seeming too distant, in fact it’s able to carry those more political lyrics easier than the frenetic stereotypical punk method of guitar riffs and loud drums but it’s rarely done well, it’s a bit like ballroom dancing in steel toe-cap boots, sure you get around but it lacks the gracefulness and lightness of the bounce (The Clash managed to do it, but then again, they were The Clash). What is needed with reggae is bass and that seems to go missing on some of the songs on this album, guitar, drums and vocal rules the day here, even on ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ where the bass is expected the carry the track, it sits too low in the mix.

I’ve been listening to this album on and off for a few days and the variation in the songs shines through, this isn’t a band with a narrow creative output, there is much to enjoy and will appeal to fans of the genre, and will no doubt be an absolute – excuse the choice of word – riot to see and hear live where punk really finds it’s feet. The success or failure of an album comes from how often it’s listened to and like I say I’ve returned to this quite a few times. Don’t expect anything new here, it’s still tongue-in-cheek with one eye on the audience and one eye on the reaction this music still manages to get, but it’s the music of the people, an aggressive folk music if you will, and shows that there is still a place for punk.

 

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