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The Heads
Everybody Knows We Got Nowhere (Reissue) Ned Raggett , September 29th, 2014 12:27

Calling any band timeless can betray either wishful thinking or willful ignorance if one isn't careful, but Bristol's own long running contributors to the biker/psych/drone/protometalriffage continuum of overlord bad vibes and mental explosions sure sound like they almost dropped in at any point in the past fifty years. Not that The Heads would have quite sounded they way they do if they'd got it together either at the start or at the present time – their steady building up of a reputation throughout the 1990s meant the perfect combination of woodshedding, finding kindred souls and figuring out exactly what worked best. Their second album Everybody Knows We Got Nowhere emerged in 2000, just before there was a random idea that rock had somehow been saved by skinny vacant shruggers in New York City – which is doubly hilarious because from the get-go of 'Legavaan Satellite' on this album The Heads sounded like they would have not merely eaten said acts for breakfast, but left them as random grease spots on the road.

The reissue of Everybody Knows is a treat and a half given all the various extras, but concentrating on the core album itself is the best place for anyone – if you're long familiar with The Heads, it'll rip through your skull again just so. If you're new, it might just rip through you, full stop. The quartet balanced out just the right mix of shaggy disaffection and glowering energy throughout; all the singles and radio sessions and more that they'd done the previous five years since their debut Relaxing With… seemed to just ramp right up into this, with production that was clear and strong but never too clean and crisp. A perfect example would be the thick freaked out near-funk of 'Could Be…', Hugo Morgan's oozing chop on bass and Wayne Maskell's steady drum punch giving the bed for Paul Allen and Simon Price to just go at each other over and with, with Price's vocal incantations just adding to it all. But there's everything from the brief injoke of 'Kraut Byrds', the moody late night flow of 'Song No. 1' and the almost brittle chug of 'Chrome Plated' to the everything-going-bugfuck-at-once of '#75' – even a one-note solo at one point sounds like it's just pointing towards imminent raving insanity while hurtling full speed off a cliff. A song like 'Barcoded' could even almost be a little romantic to a degree, but with everything wrapping up on the unearthly howl and rumble of 'Dirty Water' and the ramping up frazzling chug of 'Long Gone' among other songs, that's a bit of a secondary feeling.

The main bonus material – on the second disc of the CD version, as two extra albums in a five album vinyl box – splits between live radio session takes for Mark Radcliffe and John Peel done in that previously mentioned late nineties run and singles, generally rougher in sound than would later be evident on Everybody Knows, that had mostly appeared on the The Time is Now! compilation in 1998. That cult American label Man's Ruin, founded by illustrator Frank Kozik, had released most of those tracks as well as the compilation is little surprise; if Man's Ruin was all about that kind of freakzone explosion to start with – as responsible as anything for the popularisation of the term "stoner rock", however restrictive and generic the idea became later – then the Heads were a perfect fit, as the even more out there earlier take of 'Dirty Water' showed. 'Legavaan Satellite' and 'You Can Lean Back Sometimes' appear in both Peel and Man's Ruin versions, the latter each almost twice as long as the radio takes – but the Peel version of 'Post Relaxation' is its own acid-drenched trip, drawn out and heading towards the edge.

The vinyl box set collectors get yet another album in the form of California Jams, taken from 2000 American tour recordings, plus a further bonus CD of demos – listening to it all at once can be a little daunting, but it's a heck of a nice way to wrap everything up for the obsessives. But no matter what level you're at, this is a treat of a reissue from an act that keeps making its fiercely strong way through life while reminding everyone why it was worth paying attention in the first place. Maybe the only thing missing is a phial of bongwater but at some point, even for The Heads, you have to know when to stop.

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