Monday, September 26, 2022

False Heads Channel Anger and Alienation in Hard-Hitting Second Album ‘Sick Moon’

With their debut record, ‘It’s All There but You’re Dreaming’, and a series of live shows that have taught their audiences to expect a hectic stage presence and a mood in the purest punk spirit, False Heads have established themselves as one of the most interesting voices in contemporary British punk-rock.

The trio has become known for their sweaty, intense gigs, cutting, political lyrics, and a grunge-infused, no-frills sound that flirts with garage rock and classic punk in equal measure, managing to remain sharp and direct in all its manifestations.

Now, they are back with a follow-up record that showcases a greater maturity of sound, which discovers a greater complexity without sacrificing its immediacy. Thus, successfully cultivating the ambition of providing honest storytelling of the turbulent mood of the time it was written in.

The familiar hallmarks of the sound associated with False Heads are still all there: short, straight-to-the-point tracks that don’t linger in convoluted introductions but hit fast and hard and go straight to the core of a feeling (of the ten tracks making up the record, the longest is barely over four and a half minutes). Emotional, frank vocals that draw something from the grunge of the 90s and blend it together with a more straightforward punk attitude; scratchy guitars complemented by a robust rhythm section, with bass lines in particular often used to convey a broad range of feelings from urgency to unease. Some of the tracks will be familiar to regular attendees of past gigs, too, although they are re-imagined in the studio to take on a new form without detracting from their effectiveness.

Yet ‘Sick Moon’ is also a record that shows everywhere signs of growth in confidence and ambition, like False Heads have grown more confident with their own voice and are now happy to play around with a greater depth of compositional complexity, a greater subtlety of mood, a larger range of sound. Opener ‘Day Glow’ has an almost hard-rock opening riff and broad vocals that would not be entirely out of place in some second-generation, harder glam; some of the harder tracks, like ‘Cottonmouth’ or ‘Mime The End’, have influences drawn from the hardcore scene, including almost-spoken vocals and pushing the recognisable False Heads voice to its extreme consequences. There is a surprisingly mellow, melancholy mood to ‘Said and Done', and clever use of unsettling distortion in ‘Haunted Houses’ (this latter track also featuring Frank Turner on vocals and guitars). Closer ‘Doll’s Eye’ is almost a twisted punk ballad, with even a hint of a blues influence.

The powering force behind it all is once more an attempt to unpack and confront the political, social, and human implications of living in today’s society. The lyrics have lost nothing of their cutting urgency, as exemplified by tracks like ‘Thousand Cuts’, which couples an urgent sound with a stark honesty in the depiction of feeling, or ‘Hangman’, which deploys repetition almost to the point of obsessiveness. 

The album is meant to confront and depict the anger, isolation, and alienation which have become all too familiar in recent years, but also the determination to push back and keep fighting, and the refusal to surrender to helplessness, which has been the fire keeping punk music and culture going ever since their inception. In this sense, ‘Sick Moon’ has the hallmarks of a classic; further than that, it is certainly a compelling listen and a captivating expression of a band that is having a lot of fun with its sound and has no intention to stop or look back.


Chiara Strazzulla


Image: ‘Sick Moon’ Official Album Cover


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