Conundrum - Thee Headcoats (Damaged Goods)
This re-issue of a 1994 album by Medway’s finest sounds as brattish and vital as anything else around now, the perfect blend of punk rock and beat pop. Fashions come and go but Billy Childish remains a constant.
You think you work hard? By the time Thee Headcoats released this they had eight albums under their belts and fuck knows how many singles. Formed after Thee Mighty Caesars ground to a halt, they were an influence on everyone from Jack White to the Black Lips, Thee Oh-Sees and Jon Spencer.
There’s a simple formula to Billy Childish music. It’s recorded straight to tape and the songs rarely top two-minutes. It’s mostly guitar-bass-drums with few adornments, apart from some occasional backing vocals or blues harp. Four chords are roughly two too many. Childish’s angry, accented vocal fights its way through the lo-fi mix. He evidently hates the term ‘garage rock’ but that won’t stop most of us using it.
Thee Headcoats songs are observational, often strident and usually more frantic as an agoraphobic at the football. The occasional six strong solo demands attention like a cranky old man in a supermarket when he’s got an issue with the check-out pricing being different for the label. Listen to the break on “I’’m An Idiot” and tell me I’m wrong. Steve Vai would turn over in his grave. (What? He’s not dead?) Childish is no guitar hero but neither was Joe Strummer - and he got by OK.
Opening song “Every Bit Of Me” contains more bile than a healthy man’s liver. “Thief” is punctuated by punchy, wailing harmonica and is an opus by Childish standards at three-minutes long. “Crazy Horse” sounds nothing like Neil Young and swings like a shithouse door in a hurricane with more of that greasy blues harp.
“Girl From ’62” is the best one-and-a-quarter minute love song committed to tape by anyone, anywhere. The bitter “He’s Popular With The Girls” makes Zappa’s “Disco Boy” put-down sound like a lame rebuke. Get this man a Death to Hipsters T-shirt now!
This is out (with new cover art) on LP of course, and on CD, both procurable from Billy’s longtime label Damaged Goods. Do you need to be told twice?