Having been seduced and violated firstly by the Two Heads/Die Monkey Die EP and the Die Monkey Die album which spawned it, UK punk rock/noise twisters Headcount has held a corner of the passions in slavery ever since. The trio from Oxford now release new album Lullabies for Dogs and dig their claws in just that little more deeply and appealingly reigniting some of that early excitement upon finding the band and opening up some new lust to contemplate.
Formed in 1999, vocalist/guitarist Rob Moss, bassist Rob Jeffrey, and drummer Stef Hale soon lit up the local area and beyond with a sound which has been described as like “Adam and the Ants being sodomised by Therapy?”, whilst the band itself was declared as “hell bound pig-fucking devil dogs”. Debut release It’s a business doing pleasure with you on Mettle Tester Records in 2002 nipped at the hearts before being put in its place two years later by the aforementioned excellent Die Monkey Die via Malicious Damage Records, the ancestral home of Killing Joke. Produced by the now sadly deceased Paul Raven (Killing Joke) who also did follow-up To The Point in 2008, the release concreted the organic punk/metal/noise rock fusion of the band into the passions of the underground leading to the kind of anticipation and thrill going into this new album. Fourth album Lullabies For Dogs as well as seeing another rousing collection of distinctly Headcount sounding songs also features the continually magnetic guitar skills and invention of Ivor Novello winning co-writer and ex-Ant Marco Pirroni (also Sinead O’Connor/Wolfmen), who also featured on the band’s debut. Again on Malicious Damage Records, the twelve track record snarls with the recognisable bass belligerence and guitar based contagion which has marked the band since day one and the lyrical provocation on politics to religion and love to greed again made in notable Headcount way.
From the sinister Intro, there is always something disturbing from the combination of a child’s innocence and the stark mistrustful ambience of reality, the album coaxes out the passions with firstly Liar. Lone guitars are soon joined by pulsating beats and an industrial toasted intensity to rile up the imagination before settling into a low to the ground prowl with the bass of Jeffrey as intimidating as it is seductive and the rapacious guitars riding upon its broad back to further incite the senses. The vocals of Moss with his unique tones walk through it all with his narrative whipping up the intensity primed to burst in the vibrant chorus. It is a strong and pleasing start especially with the almost southern drawl to the guitars at times licking upon the ear.
News Corpse steps up next, the song launching a scathing attack on Murdoch, politicians, and the corruption around them. Again there is an immediate lure at work which hooks attention and an eager energy to climb on board with its charged and persistent presence. It brings that earlier mentioned comparison to Therapy? to mind throughout, though also with an equal thought of One Minute Silence making its raw temptation. The track rises the temperature of the release before passing the beacon onto the even greater likes of Black Dog Days, a song which has been picked up by the mental health charity SANE as part of their Black Dogs campaign, and Sleep Well Tonight, though they in turn are left in shade by the outstanding Greed. The first of this trio has a brawling breath to its potent fire of rock ‘n’ roll whilst the second from a calm start stalks and leans on thoughts and senses with metal sinews veining the riffs and a muscular rabidity to the rhythmic caging. It is a delicious romp of punk bred confrontation and garage rock bruising soaked in a sonic antagonism that inflames the heart with an almost Richard Hell like abrasiveness upon an infectious anthemic underbelly. The last voracious song of the three reaps even stronger essences of One Minute Silence into its uncompromising attack, the guitars and rhythms unpredictable provocateurs leading the listener into the scarring and scintillating storm of intensively sculpted noise.
As each track leaves pure satisfaction in their path and wake, the likes of the savage Cross The Line with its impossibly tantalising lures and Tortured Tongue with its blues flamed guitars skirting another virulently infected maelstrom rife with teasing hooks, potent vocals, and richly hued energy raise pinnacles within the album whilst the title track unleashes an epidemic of barbs, grooves, and riffs which ignites every instinctive sense, thought, and emotion. Again reminding of the Irish trio previously mentioned, the track is a blistering storm of a riot which leaves the breath lost for air and mind lacking words for the pleasure felt.
Completing the album with the squalling mighty of What I’m Worth and the more than potently decent Leave It To The Dogs, Headcount brashly and noisily return to the fore of punk honed, noise filtered rock with their album. Though debatably it does not quite reach the heights of earlier releases and for personal tastes the production on the vocals lacks the bite they deserve, Lullabies for Dogs is a thrilling and inciting treat reminding society and its perpetrators that no one is safe with Headcount around.
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