Tentacle Films Limited [Release date 14.10.13]
Hot Head Show is a trio with art rock and avant-garde pretensions. ‘Perfect’ is an album that has its moments of starling musical innovation, as it explores imaginative horizons, but ultimately it struggles lyrically to come up with anything new.
The band features guitarist/vocalist Jordan Copeland (son of 70’s rock royalty Sonja Kristina and Stewart Copeland), drummer Maxwell “Betamax” Hallett, and bassist Jonah Brody and I guess the clue to the band’s music is to be found in their name ‘Hot Head Show’. Musically there are obvious Beefheart fractured elements, with Zappa style shifting time signatures, and Moxy Fruvous influenced vocals. What’s missing is the ground breaking poetry that marked the Captain’s best moments, Zappa’s wit and closer to home the clarity of diction that made John Cooper Clark a punk favourite.
Sure there’s a mix of eccentricity, surreal moments and eclectic word plays, but for the most part too many of the songs are simply too impenetrable. And in those moments when the smoke clears, it reveals old themes such as the ‘woman done me wrong’ syndrome of ‘Bethany’, which concludes with the line: ‘It just seems a shame to be such a young girl playing such an old game’.
The album opens with a feverish vocal on ‘Kansas’ full of rhythmic word plays: ‘the only ambistically realicious option open is simply to decide to aspire to inspire in every observation a sense of Perfect Perfection, to see the universe always in all its Perfectiosly relentless Perfectivity ’ . And on it goes, evoked over the heaviest riffs from King Crimson’s ‘Red’ period, which are reprise liberally throughout the album.
The band strives to be avant garde without having a core mission statement, other than the ‘Perfect’ of the title track, and you really have to do more than chop and change time signatures and throw in a few esoteric lyrics.
The mid-section guitar part of ‘Bang Now’ could be lifted from Beefheart’s ‘Hair Pie Bake One’, without really adding anything to the original. Similarly the fractured rhythms of ‘Hello Doctor’ with its crisp percussion and Soca guitar over a jazzy throbbing bass, is potentially interesting but fails to get beyond a low key finale as they seem to run out of ideas.
‘Bodie Doesn’t Take it Sitting Down’ on the other hand, sparkles with some hot club guitar and bv’s and has a lovely gentle ending. ‘Some Money’ is presumably an example of their frenetic live show, all triple time minimalism, frantic drums and lots of dynamic tension, while Jordan’s animated vocals on ‘Fingers’ – all fractured stop-start rhythms – is a restless piece that builds up the tension before being partially resolved by the great jazzy line: ‘my lips learn faster than my fingers’. It’s a prime example of the frustrating moments on an album that has some great musical moments, but all too often falters with some contrived lyrics.
‘Bagfish’ finds guest vocalist Eve Copeland emoting some delicious sounding nonsensical word plays over a cool train-time, tic-toc rhythm, with some Zappa and Moldy Peaches style keyboard runs and Robert Fripp’s heaviest riffs. It’s the most successful track on the album as the band perfectly interweaves words, shifting tempos and genres.
They finish with the ‘Unbearable Lightness of Bang’, which is a fairground ride through backwards tapes, prepared cacophony and Nick Walters’ trumpet asJordanreturns to the theme of perfection.
‘Perfect’ is album that demands a lot of patience from the listener. The best moments are worth waiting for and with repeated plays the pieces all fall into place, making those more imperfect moments a blot on an otherwise interesting landscape. ***
Review by Pete Feenstra
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