South Wales-based electro/art punk band Head Noise, self-described purveyors of post-apocalyptic synthpop, are one of the more unusual acts I follow. Comprised of Mitch Tennant (primitive keyboards & shouting), Wayne Bassett (guitar & synths), Jordan Brill (more guitar & synths), and Andrew Topper Walsh (drums & percussion on some tracks), their unconventionally quirky music sounds like it could have been created by the love child of Devo, The Vapors and Dr. Demento. I’ve previously featured them twice on this blog, most recently last May when I reviewed their delightful EP CONSEQUENTIAL QUASARS! Now the guys are back with a terrific new EP SCRAM, which appropriately dropped on April Fool’s Day. The EP has been released by independent Welsh label Dirty Carrot Records.
For their latest effort, they’ve ditched the guitars and, inspired by music from early iterations of The Human League, Depeche Mode and (of course) Devo, they’ve decided to go fully electronic. While still awash with their signature zany screwball flair for the absurd, exemplified by songs about cataclysmic death-derbies (“Screwball Scramble”), unfinished David Lynch movies (“Ronnie Rocket!”), and mangling the English language (“Alliteration, Again”), SCRAM also explores darker topics like hidden surveillance (“Candid Camera”) and nuclear evacuation (“Miracle Mile”).
Opening track “Screwball Scramble” is a fun listen, with throbbing spacey synths and quirky baby-like vocal flourishes, in sharp contrast with it’s decidedly bleak subject matter: “They drop me into this barren place, a wasted space for an extinction race. A four wheel powerhouse of pain where chunks of flesh fall down the drain. Terminate, to seal our fate with blisters coming from the throwing flames.” “Candid Camera” has a funky techno vibe, with a strong, catchy beat overlain with more of those wonderfully spacey, sci-fi synths. In an altered voice at times sounding almost diabolical, Tennant sings “Smile, cuz you’re on candid camera. Yessir!“
On “Ronnie Rocket!“, Head Noise employ a hypnotic EDM beat and swirling sci-fi industrial synths to create a futuristic soundscape in a nod to David Lynch’s film Dune, but the song’s more generally about a film Lynch never made. Tennant said it’s “a mad mash up of Salvador Dali, Monty Python and the Looney Tunes.” An electronically altered voice sounding like Stephen Hawking says “The concept of absurdity is something I’m attracted to” – which could well be the definitive descriptor for Head Noise – followed by Tennant’s more ‘normal’ voice repeating the lines “Let’s Lynch again. We are the saboteurs.” “Alliteration, Again” is a silly and lighthearted new wave song with strong Devo influences, replete with a bouncy pogo-like beat and colorful psychedelic synths.
Far and away the best track on the EP is “Miracle Mile“, with it’s stunning Depeche Mode-esque sound. Running 6:20 in length, the song is magnificent, with a complex and lush mix of sparkling and haunting synths layered over a hypnotic pulsating dance groove. Tennant’s vocals sound more pure here, revealing a beautiful voice that’s often hidden beneath the quirky Dr. Demento-like vocals so prevalent on many of their songs. Still, in a somewhat electronically-altered voice that could be his or someone else’s, we hear the chilling lyrics “You’ll find us fossilized, in a dilapidated museum, burning with a strange fire that you can never put out.”
Special shout outs for the song’s phenomenal sound go to guest musician Andrew Llewellyn for his gorgeous synth lines, and Liz Bassett (Wayne’s wife) for her captivating backing vocals, both of which greatly add to the song’s overall dreamy vibe. Being a sucker for heavily melodic music, I think “Miracle Mile” is a triumph, and the best song Head Noise has ever recorded.
SCRAM is another impressive work by this talented group of musicians, who never fail to amaze us with their boundless creativity, imagination and musicianship. The marvelous nuclear-inspired artwork for the EP was created by Anthony Price, who’s own music, under the moniker Dunkie, I’ve also written about previously.
Those of you in the UK can catch Head Noise at one of these upcoming shows:
- Apr 02 – Salthouse, Clevedon, Bristol, England
- Apr 08 – Jacs Music Venue, Aberdare, Wales
- Apr 09 – The Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon, England
- Apr 22 – Rhostio Speciality Coffee, Cardiff, Wales
- Apr 30 – Steampunk Festival, Minehead, Minehead, England
- May 05 – Le Pub, Newport, Wales
- May 27 – The Moon, Cardiff, Wales
- May 28 – Usk Memorial Hall, Newport, Wales
- May 29 – Exchange Bristol, Bristol, England
- Jun 24 – The Pen and Wig, Newport, Wales
- Jul 17 – The Bunkhouse, Swansea, Wales
- Sep 17 – Dolls House, Abertillery, UK
- Sep 24 – Cwmaman Music Festival – Cwmaman, Wales