Stoke-on-Trent Punk/Folkers Headsticks have a new full-length LP out right now and it’s not for the faint-hearted. It’s a mixture of social commentary, personal strife and a whole lot more. It opens with the fast-paced “When”, with its frenetic hitting and equally fast picking. I’m briefly reminded of Jello Biafra in the vocal urgency – clear and audible with a direct, in-yer-face attitude. The snare hitting is huge throughout. There is negativity and despair running through it that doesn’t just appear in this song. The song’s structure is great for an opener which sets the stall for what follows. “I Love You” is quite a departure from its predecessor with its gentle Ska beat and slowed right down. The lyrics are most personal and its a positive v negative subject matter I feel born out of pure frustration. “Peace and War” is Clash-esque and multi-layered but catchy as hell and yet, the chorus is just confusing. “Cynical” takes things right down once again and the title is self-explanatory. The vocal briefly slips into caricature but is not out of place. The overuse of the line “I’m Getting Cynical” is a tad draining and self-indulgent but the acoustic-led guitars are a pleasant enough distraction.

“Mushrooms” thankfully puts a smile back on my face, despite occasional cussing. Set to a Ska/2-Tone beat it’s a bouncy little number. One can imagine them warming a rain-sodden crowd in a festival setting with a skanking crowd. “Mr. Alright Jack” stays in the humourous vein and tells the story of a fellow we all know. Hints of Rockabilly/RnR and a vocal that veers from mellow to strained. “My Own War” is once again personal and the lyrics set the scene. A definite nod to NMA it races along at a fast pace. Layered vocals and some powerful hitting and a sharp ending. “It’s A Matter of Time” is a melancholic ramble and frankly quite repetitive. The spoken word section thankfully breaks the monotony but I find the song quite negative.


“Smoke and Mirrors” intro reminds me of Electric-era Cult but that ends when the lyrics kick in. It’s an upbeat and powerful song, delivered with passion and catchy as hell. Noodly guitar lines in places with a bass that throbs in the background. “What If They’re Right” has that same passion in the vocal, demanding your attention. Rabble-rousing and passionate with a greaty big anthemic chorus. “Out of Fashion” is like a mid-LP intermission, spoken word and at odd’s with the rest of the LP – perhaps that’s the point. A brief spoken word edit opens “Family Tree” that thankfully returns the Ska beat of earlier songs. In the bridge, the song opens up and just gets faster. One can imagine this being a live favourite. “All of the Trees” passionately tells the tale of environmental change – it’s a clear pop at the authorities, passionately delivered with a heartfelt honesty that hits the mark.

“The Song For Song’s Sake” is a witty, fun song with no real lyrical theme and pure filler. It livens up toward the end which I guess had to happen. Its got that whole Festy vibe to it and one could imagine it making a good set closer. “When The Sun Turns Black” is environmental at its core and gives a clear message. The best bit being the ending which is like nothing else on this collection. ‘Baboon Shepherd’ closes the LP with an ode to a South African footballer. A return to the spoken word it’s humourous and tongue-in-cheek. It namechecks bands, even adding snatches of said bands choruses while reminiscing the past. Overlong in the extreme (almost 11 minutes) one wonders if it was ad-libbed or done in one take? I’m briefly reminded of early “Atilla the Stockbroker”, or maybe I’m mistaken and it’s just one long rant?!


This is Headsticks third LP to date and I imagine they would go down well at any Roots/Punk/Crust festival with their social commentary and overall vibe. For fans of Strummer, NMA, Levellers and a host of others this band are worth a listen and while it might not be to my taste; one cannot fault the passion, musicianship and pure honesty. And lastly the packaging. The LP is presented in a solid card gatefold cd case, with full lyric sheets. Plus, a gallery of professionally presented pictures and all the info one could possibly need.

Track listing
I Love You
Peace or War
Mr. I’m Alright Jack
My Own War
It’s A Matter of Time
Smoke and Mirrors
What If They’re Right
Out of Fashion
Family Tree
All of the Trees
The Song for Song’s Sake
When The Sun Turns Black
Baboon Shepherd




Review by Ross A. Ferrone.

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