October 9, 2008
Record Review: Heavens to Murgatroyd, Even! It’s Thee Headcoats! (Already)
Heavens to Murgatroyd, Even! It’s Thee Headcoats! (Already)
1990 | Sub Pop
I once asked someone – who I thought would know – which Headcoats album I should start with. I’d heard an awful lot about them, but never heard them. They kind of intimidated me, like Black Flag or This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb, before I’d heard either of them. Just intimidating looking and sounding bands.
So I asked a guy in Other Music or Kim’s or somewhere, “Where’s a good place to start with Thee Headcoats?” His response was something like, “Oh, it doesn’t really matter. You can start with whatever cover strikes your eye. They all basically sound exactly the same.” So, I waited until I stumbled upon Heavens to Murgatroyd… in a cutout bin, and snapped it up.
This is what music is supposed to sound like. Wild Billy Childish and Co. are punks, but not wrapped up in the politics or the style of the punk rock world. There’s some elements in here of mid-60’s garage rock, a la the Sonics or the Monks, but this is 1990 we’re talking about, and Thee Headcoats are clearly not dressing up like a “garage rock” band – Thee Headcoats sound like the garage because that’s probably where they still play today. There’s an element of “You Really Got Me”-era Kinks, but Thee Headcoats aren’t Civil War reenacters, and this music isn’t nostalgic for any time other than now (or rather, 1990). The music on Heavens to Murgatroyd… is sloppy and punky and a perfect distillation of scrappy, rockin’ blues. Heavens to Murgatroyd… might as well be called Thee Headcoats Greatest Hits: each of the key elements of their sound is here. Opener “Mantrap” contains one of the three or four classic Headcoats riffs (there are about two dozen signature Headcoats riffs). All girl protégé group Thee Headcoatees (featuring Miss Holly Golightly) make several key appearances here, most notably on the sultry, doomy “Pokerhuntus Was Her Name.” There’s even a key harmonica or two, reminiscent (or indeed foreshadowing) of Childish’s later “blues” albums with Dan Melchior.
The music of Thee Headcoats contains much of the punk energy, but is clearly detached by “age” and “wisdom.” Wild Billy Childish is still wild, but even by 1990 was a little long in the tooth to be an angry young man. If you want your punk rock light, energetic, and unencumbered by politickin,’ start with Heavens to Murgatroyd, Even! It’s Thee Headcoats! (Already).
by Brook Pridemore