HEAD – Dear Father – Album Review
Back with their second full-length record, the enigmatic alt/art-rock band HEAD has released a new badass set of tunes on Dear Father, which would technically be the follow-up/conclusion to the story they began telling on their last album, Afraid To Sleep. Detailing the struggles, emotions, insanity, and heartbreak centered around a character known as Alberta, HEAD once again dives deep into tales of abuse and the darker side of life on the songs throughout Dear Father, furthering their own story in the process and establishing an identifiable sound that is quite comfortably rooted in its own murk & mire.
Whether this is your first time with the music of HEAD or you’ve been a fan from the release of their self-titled EP back in 2015, either way you win with this new record – this band started strong to begin with, but it’s also undeniable that they’re much more dialed-in to the sound, style, and vision of what they’ve been looking to achieve now here in the present. Dear Father is definitely the best I’ve heard the band sounding to-date…an album that’s really about the sound of a band that’s got incredible balance between its strengths…individually, all the players have their own skills & specific talents that they bring to the record for sure, but really, what’s most impressive is how you hear this band as one entity. Tightly performed and produced in a way you don’t often experience outside of the mainstream, the combination of ideas, harmonies, gripping riffs, imagination, and their darkly creative methods, all add up to a record that’s stuffed with material that will hold up strongly over time…this is a memorable contribution to the growing catalog of quality tunes from HEAD & the legacy of the band overall.
Deadly beginning to the first cut “Road To Ruin” – Stone (Keys) and The Phantom (Bass) quickly get the atmosphere established, Styxx (Drums) and oD (Guitar) come in to amp-up the energy even further, setting up Lyric (Vocals) perfectly to succeed, and she certainly does. They ALL do. Like I said from the get-go here, even though HEAD is still a relatively new project, make no mistake, these are veterans of the music-scene and they’re clearly not fucking around – “Road To Ruin” immediately displays the balance of power between them all and the remarkable sum total of this band’s combined talents. HEAD’s one of those bizarre projects out there whereby, if you dig what they do, you could pretty much justify any of their songs as a potential single…the quality of the hooks and songwriting always have the potential to reach a large audience & range of people out there. That being said, “Road To Ruin” is a solid choice as the lead-single from Dear Father…the pace is wickedly engaging, the verse & chorus are both seriously strong, and the performances from the band sets a massively high standard to follow.
It’s a challenge that they meet HEAD-on. They’ll definitely exceed your expectations with this record.
“Long One” stands-out lyrically…or Lyric stands-out…whichever ya like, both apply here. I dig the dramatic/theatrical approach she takes to the vocals on this second cut…you can tell she’s right in to the concept and delivering the power of the twisted & weighty emotions that are ever-involved in Alberta’s storyline. There’s audible commitment you can hear from Lyric all over this record that makes the words come to life. Excellent tripped-out & hauntingly-melodic harmonies, loved the searing & soaring guitar tones from oD and the piano/keys from Stone as well, plus the great punch, depth, & tone in the drums from Styxx really all added up to a mix of mystique in the enchanting/engaging second cut of the record. I’ll admit that in some ways “Long One” almost seems to draw back from the original vibe & energy set in motion by “Road To Ruin,” but I still think that it sparkles with appeal of its own. I love how involved you can hear the entire band is on a song like “Long One” – like at its most full, you can totally hear just how much is going on and how this band is fully rockin’ it. You could also argue that “Long One” more directly introduces the artistic aspect that HEAD has to offer as well…so what it might trade for straight-ahead hooks, it favorably exchanges for music & ideas that make a lasting impact. Still hooks here mind you…can’t deny that those rad guitar tones from oD have massive appeal, so does the strong chorus of this second track from Dear Father.
I felt like “Deep” was a perfect example of how far HEAD has come in their music, songwriting, & execution. I remember feeling like I wanted just a SMIDGEN more attitude from Lyric when I reviewed their music back in 2015 to match that edge in their music & vibe – and on “Deep” I think you get a solid dose of the difference that can make in the overall results. Anyone that’s a fan of HEAD’s music already knows that Lyric can sing – she’s completely reliable in that department – but taking that time to embrace the words like she does on “Deep” and deliver their true essence by jumping out of what might be her normal comfort zone of smooth tones into vocals with real attitude, edge, rasp, & venom, adds so much more depth to the whole song when she pulls that card – it was a great move on this tune and definitely noticeable. Point being – she’s using all the tools she’s got to their maximum potential here. The flow of the verse has exceptional hooks, loved the backing vocals along the way, the crisp beat of the drums from Styxx…all this is rad. It gets RADDER. That’s right, I said it. It’s true though – on both sides of the third-minute, entering & exiting, exists an absolutely wicked new dimension to the entire direction of this song, shifting it into heavy/progressive terrain but also expanding on the original idea in exciting, unforeseeable ways. Badass track! “Deep” keeps its energy roaring; the transition around the two-thirty mark is such a ridiculously welcome, impressive, & memorable highlight on this entire record that you’ll look forward to it every single time.
“The Prayer” is pretty much one of the raddest things you’ll hear this year. It’s a short, creepy interlude that crawls eerily right through your speakers like the nightmare you never knew you wanted to have. There is no question about the awesomeness in this idea…placement-wise…I wasn’t as sure every time. I could definitely hear this at the end, at the beginning…there are so many spots that this short & deadly twisted tune could have ended up and was no doubt debated hotly back & forth as they went to finalize the layout of this record. Would have been a tough call I’m sure, but definitely required to be included – “The Prayer” is a wicked interlude that’ll have the hairs of your neck standing on end without a doubt. Haunting as hell with the creepiest tinge of sweetness & innocence somehow making this aural experience cling to your bones even more tightly…I’d take this one anywhere on the album they wanted to put it. Like if you know the extended version of “Something I Can Never Have” by Nine Inch Nails on the Natural Born Killers Soundtrack…it’s that kind of chilling vibe so well executed that “The Prayer” will have you sleeping with the lights on.
Even though the competition is stiff upon this record, the album’s centerpiece & title-track “Dear Father” definitely stands out. Many songs on in this set showcase & highlight HEAD’s innate ability to take catchy hooks into more progressive and deep ideas that’ll end up lasting on your playlist’s much longer than the average pop or rock song. Like, LISTEN to that exceptional chorus and the rhythm that Lyric finds in the sway of the vocals…that’s all single, all day right there is what that is. Combined with the more artistic approach to the design of the verse and surrounding parts of the structure, “Dear Father,” like many tunes from HEAD, turns away from being too ‘straight & narrow’ and becomes something much more. As a result, their songs are undoubtedly more demanding to listen to than a lot of what you hear out there in today’s world…but call me crazy, there’s something refreshing about not being able to hear everything coming at you and being surprised by the organic inclinations of a band that’s unafraid to turn left instead of right in effort to satisfy their own artistic desires rather than the radio, you feel me? Don’t get me wrong though, they could test the waters with this one and very well find success with listeners out there…sometimes all it takes is one seriously strong hook for a song to stand out & bring the people into the rest of what it has to offer…”Dear Father” has that with its chorus. Almost to illustrate that point, HEAD starts the song with it & rightly so – it immediately pulls you in before they send you into a psychedelic-pop/rock influence on the sound that fuels the music & melody of the verse. Excellent guitar solo from oD – I could listen to this guy light it up all day long. That being said, it leads right into a seriously rad breakdown on “Dear Father” and brilliant bring-back into the bold hooks of its stunning chorus, grooving on its enticing atmosphere & essence right to the end.
Gotta give a shout-out to my man The Phantom for the bass-lines he’s laid down throughout this entire record. Quite often they were one of the first parts of the music to reach my ears…great slick tones, highly inventive movements, expertly played…listen to how the dude moves through “Breathe” and how much it contributes to the sound of HEAD. Dig the pace & flow of this cut altogether…I felt like “Breathe” offers a glimpse into a different dimension of HEAD’s music all-around…it’s still them, but like, different somehow. Quite honestly, I’m not even sure I can put my finger on what that is…a lighter vibe in the atmosphere perhaps, largely punctuated by the keys from Stone in the music & big harmonies along the way…I dunno…whatever it is that’s causing the difference, I’m digging it. “Breathe” is actually quite shockingly slightly over five minutes long…and I say shockingly because this song seems to absolutely RIP by as it plays. One of the coolest & more unique vibes housed within this record…just enough of a shift in their style & sound to become completely noticeable, but for all the right reasons. Bonus points for the brilliant ending, but all-around, “Breathe” was a real highlight & unexpected twist.
“Love Lies” is an interesting tune to listen to and to examine. I think there are insightful choices being made here that are creatively rewarding for the band…there are a lot of elements about this song that could potentially make it a single from this record, and some moves that steer it away from being too typical in that radio-sense hook-wise. That’s where the online world comes in to play anyhow…you put a killer video with this track and there’s a damn good chance it could find the audience it deserves. Without a doubt, “Love Lies” catches the attention…as to where it’ll fit out there, it’s harder to say…but that’s largely part of the appeal of HEAD’s music overall…they can exist & thrive in multiple realms. There’s certainly a ton of intensity & flash to the sound of the chops they use in the stop/start energy that they use to such tremendous effect in their music. Again, that speaks to just how well these players communicate as musicians, you can hear how flawlessly they interact with each other on “Love Lies.” They move as one, no matter how complex or complicated it gets. Led forth by the charging synth sounds from Stone to drive the melody of “Love Lies,” the band cranks-up the energy to match the vibe with a gripping performance that has everyone firing on all cylinders. The Phantom – you KNOW I’m lovin’ that bass homie, nice moves, nice moves. The chorus of this cut is undeniably catchy, the drums are insanely cool throughout the entire song, and those final punishing shouts of the song’s title from Lyric in the last moments hit the mark right on target to create a seriously bold & memorable ending to this short & intense cut.
The killer atmosphere in the verse of “She” is a noteworthy highlight on this record for sure. If anything, HEAD’s out-written themselves here between the strength of the verse and chorus to follow, but I still felt like as a track overall it definitely worked incredibly well. Almost too many cool things about this cut to list, but I’ll give it a shot. The lyrics are great & tell a wild tale, the guitar sounds are off-the-charts awesome, the harmonies are once again insanely bang-on in their energy, support & tone, and a lot of the subtle switches towards the end of this song that expand the chorus & hooks out even further really create a highlight ending. Definitely a track I felt like I always noticed every time I played the record. Lyric sounds amazing in the verse of “She” – likely my favorite spot on the whole album for her vocals, both for the texture of the sound and the way she sings it. She dabbles with added effects here on her sound at times throughout the song, and the verdict is in – SOLID move – she ends up adding a ton to the appeal of this entire sound and that extra shroud of FX always allows a singer the opportunity to open-up even more, don’t you think? As they drive towards the end of “She,” Lyric continues to captivate right to the final seconds – another highlight on an album full of memorable moments.
For those that are looking for something on HEAD’s heavier side, the storming stomp of “Toxic” is enormously satisfying. Drawing on that classic riffage that made Zep & Sabbath monstrously large, guitarist oD takes the reigns and leads the way with a seriously impressive rock-song that is designed to catch the attention of listeners out there with its looming presence. Add in the soulful/stylistic way that Lyric chooses to sing this cut, and again, you’ve got an identifiable sound that HEAD can call their own. Put Scott Weiland (R.I.P.) in front of this one and you’ve damn near got yourself a Stone Temple Pilots cut…especially with the way those harmonies end up roaring into the pre-chorus. Interesting fusion of sound on this cut that expands in multiple directions, with tons of subtle/short additions along the way that are compelling to listen to – “Toxic” is probably closer to the being on the fence for fitting into this entire set-list by comparison to the rest, but I still felt like it belonged. It’s certainly impossible to ignore – “Toxic” sounds big & bad enough to stomp out your whole village. The versatility this song finds in the sound of its chorus adds yet another impressive dimension to its structure, dipping into that blues vibe a bit further before Stone trips us out with otherworldly sounds on its way towards the end of this tune. Even though it tilts much towards the heavier side of HEAD’s sound, there’s still quite a remarkable amount of crossover appeal that exists as a result of them all pushing the boundaries at all times to include a wide range of sound that’s pretty much bound to snag everyone out there for one reason or another…or like, you know, ALL of them.
I’m genuinely impressed with this record and how far HEAD has come as a band. Dear Father goes on to a spectacular finale over the course of the last two cuts, with “Disaster” coming out once again sounding like an immediate hit with BIG hooks in both the music & vocals. Smartly placed synth sounds from Stone really add flavor & character into this cut, especially as they take the lead-melody in between verse & chorus in the instrumental sections. Credit where credit is due overall though, “Disaster” works really, really well and flows flawlessly from moment to moment, part to part. Lyric has an incredibly difficult part to sing here and nails it…she hits some impressively high notes that remind me of Roberta Carter Harrison of the Wild Strawberries…likely as a result of that, I found that this particular cut reminded me a lot of the vibe & sound you get from their album Quiver. Or like the Cowboy Junkies somehow evolved and became interesting – “Disaster” is the kind of compelling mix of atmospheric, bold, & dreamy vocals and stunning music that you always wished that band really had. As in like, there’s LIFE and a PULSE here that comes through radiantly clear with its sharp hooks, charismatic synth sounds, and smartly controlled-but-powerful drum beats complementing the movement perfectly. Definitely a memorable song – likely the one with the ultimate highlight in that short theatrical breakdown around the 2:25 mark as well. Really well executed overall, as expected at this point, but “Disaster” still manages to stand out for its songwriting, structure, sound, & flow…HEAD’s got great ideas all throughout Dear Father and music that continually engages the mind just as much as the ears.
In terms of a conclusion to their back-to-back concept albums, I’d have to imagine that HEAD is extraordinarily stoked on the way that the album flows to its definitive ending – you get a genuine finale on this record. Between the impressiveness of “Disaster” & the highlight songwriting on display throughout that song, and the brilliant ending that HEAD has put onto this record with the instrumental tune “The Tail” putting a large exclamation point at the end of the set, these last moments of Dear Father become huge checkmarks in the win-column for the music of this band. I mean…no disrespect to this band’s electric front-woman Lyric…but DAMN this is a fucking great final tune! I’m positive she’d enthusiastically agree. The instrumentation is absolutely off the freakin’ charts, the switches in timing, tempo, tone, direction…the soaring guitars from oD are purely immaculate around the 2:30 mark when they solo with the piano keys from Stone in the background…the way this song switches from its initial vibe to a blues-influence and back again into the deadly progressive alt-rock-electro-pop-alternative-industrial-thing they’ve got going on…I mean c’mon, how cool is this final cut? It’s got it ALL. The power of the emotion, melody, & music combined in the mid-section of “The Tail” is seriously breathtaking and incredible way to end the experience with one last twist you wouldn’t possibly see coming.
Everything about this record really shows the effort has been put in and that the support genuinely exists for the serious talent & music of HEAD from both sides of the studio boards. Clearly they’re still on their way UP – the quality of the writing, performance, and execution, is outstanding on Dear Father. Believe it or not…I have the suspicion that they’re STILL going to get BETTER from here. No knock against this album, they’ve definitely nailed it from beginning to end on this one…but now that they have, and now that they’ve wrapped up the story of Alberta, who knows what comes next!?! Sounds to me like they’ve got a unified vision for their style & sound and they’re all completely into every moment of their music…the possibilities & potential for where it’ll end up next are soundly limitless.
Find out more about HEAD from their official website at: http://headmusic.ca