ALBUM REVIEW: HEADSTICKS – ‘C.O.W.’ (2021)

Fresh from their utterly brilliant ‘Live Sessions’ broadcast at Christmas English Folk-Punk-Rockers Headsticks release their fourth studio album having signed to Chapter 22 Records. Hard hitting, emotive, infectious anthems and barbed lyrics a plenty.

Straddling the Punk and Folk scenes and still managing to keep everyone happy is quite a feat but one that Headsticks manage quite admirably. A couple of weeks ago we ran a feature on 80’s band The Glasgow Tremens titled ‘Punky But Not Punk, Folky But Not Folk‘ well this can not be said of Headsticks! The band describe themselves as “where folk and punk collide” and while you can’t help but make comparisons with a host of big names like the New Model Army, a more punky Levellers, Billy Bragg (when he was good) and even more recent bands like Ferocious Dog but Headsticks are still very much their own band. Formed out of the ashes of two much loved, and long gone, Celtic-Punk bands. ‘Tower Struck Down’ who were one of first English Celtic-Punk bands back in 1985 and Jugopunch, who had a song ‘Blackheart’ on the Shite’n’Onions compilation What The Shite #2 back in 2006. This brought them to international attention so popular were this series of CD’s. Well the Celtic touches are mainly gone but what remains is the plain good old folk’n’roll that made them popular first time round.

C.O.W. is their upteenth release and they have been reviewed here quite a few times so regular is their output. The last time was for an 4-track EP ‘Lies, Lies,Lies‘ featuring Punk Rock legend Steve Ignorant. With such a regular output they are also one of a few bands who also put out their releases on vinyl, even going so far as to have had vinyl only releases in the past. Hailing from Stoke in Staffordshire an area once famed for the manufacture of pottery (the area is known as The Potteries), coal mining and steel making. The area has gone into decline with the disappearance of these industries and neglect from both national and local government. Betrayed by the party the people bled red for they now vote for other parties. An area with a proud working class and trade union tradition is where Headsticks come from and this seeps through their music. Kicking off with ‘Red Is The Colour’ an anthem for those that gave their lives on battle fields everywhere. Sounding more like Jello Biafra than I can remember vocalist Andrew Tranter portrays the right ammount of passion and be sure these are passionate songs. Bands like Headsticks have always had plenty to sing about and these days when the ordinary bloke in the street is seemingly despised by everyone their is plenty ammunition. Next up is the apocalyptic love song ‘Peace & Quiet’ foretelling of environmental disaster but like all things Headsticks it’s told in a beautiful way. The art of writing lyrics that tell a complete story is some achievement and one that not just Celtic-Punk bands are adapt at.

The first song from the album to be released late last year it came out as 7″ single backed with a tremendous cover of ‘In The Ghetto’ (still available here).

“Don’t Predict A Riot! I want some peace and some quiet, I don’t to be the one who has to be the one to be so strong!”

‘Miles And Miles’ is a great example of their Folked up Punk while the next songs both show their range from 1980’s Anarcho-Punk in the style of early Chumba’s or Blyth Power to gentle acoustic musing. ‘A Tear For Yesterday’ and ‘Tyger, Tyger’ though poles apart on the surface fit together perfectly. ‘This Ain’t Politics’ is another on the folkier side and one I’m sure will be more popular at 50% of their gigs.

‘Naked’ was the second song to be released from C.O.W. on St. Patrick’s Day just gone and a great chugging Punk-Rock number. Simple but effective. The music takes quite a turn for the next couple of songs with ‘Red Sky’ and a pumping funky bass line my favourite track on C.O.W. while ‘Burn’ turns out a metally rocker. Both songs leave you with plenty to digest. Headsticks are one of those bands that its good to have the lyrics in front of you. ‘Opium’ is another acoustic number the shortest track on the album. We are into the last two songs and you can be among the first people to see the new Headsticks video for it comes out later today! ‘Speak Out’ comes at 9pm here so be sure to tune in and leave a comment. A bombastic rocker based upon the post-war poem by German pastor Martin Niemöller about the cowardice of German intellectuals to stand up to the rise of the Nazi’s. To ignore the persecution of others until it lands on your own doorstep. The standout and most memorable song here brings the curtain down and ‘Sing Danny Boy’ will raise the hairs on your neck. Andrew speaks over a gentle swirling backdrop about child abuse and psychological scars with a rare emotion found in music of any era or style. Some people are damaged before they get a chance to live it’s a terrible heart breaking thing. The passion spills out and I implore you to listen to the song below.

C.O.W. is Headsticks fourth studio album and their first, having recently signed, for the independent Midlands label Chapter 22 Records. The CD comes with a beautifully produced 20-page lyric booklet. C.O.W. is the bands best album so far and unusually each album they have released I have said that about. This may not be the usual kind of fare that readers are use to here but we have a sort of artistic license sometimes to include bands we love that we feel you will love too.  Headsticks have always been one of those bands and their constant innovation and evolving sound deserves to be heard and loved by many more. 

Buy C.O.W. Vinyl/CD Here  Download Here

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