The Pinheads

Heads on Sticks end of decade 2010's playlist!!

”And some people say it’s just rock and roll,

Oh but it gets you right down to your soul

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, ‘Push the Sky Away’, 2013

Music has been my greatest companion. My favourtite drug, a rubber ring in emergency, a tool for surgical introspection. Anyone who loves their music will often struggle to summarise their decade without listing a string of albums or gigs before detailing actual events. The cathartic properties of music are forever intertwined with the narrative of our lives, from our deepest most private battles to the socio-political turmoil stared down by the nation. What this decade means to me is overwhelmingly represented in just 100 songs.

I entered the 2010’s in a fog of uncertainty, as did the country. The financial crisis seemed to coarsen people, the New Labour consensus lay dying, and an emerging appetite for punitive politics reared its head. For many young people, the student protests of 2010 were the seeds of their political awakening. Having had to endure the gleeful relish at further debt for simply wanting an education from pissheads at a bar I worked part-time at, I was well aware that my Media Practice and Film-Making degree would gather scant respect in a new climate of bitter division, and was sure that economic precarity was to follow due to the recession at the time of my graduation.

Right toward the end of my studies, I got hit by the ‘lightning bolt’. One of the greatest experiences is the hit of a fantastic tune when you discover an artist so brilliant it terrifies you that life could have carried on without their songs in your system. As a deep admirer of the original wave of synth artists (Cabaret Voltaire, Kraftwerk, early Human League etc.) I was dissatisfied with the way the synthesizer was being used as a mere indie-toy as opposed to the mysterious beast it was capable of. Stumbling around on YouTube late at night I was exposed to a song called ‘Vigils‘ by Xeno & Oaklander and it was exactly what I wanted to hear. Deep, cold, and analogue, it seized me with its glacial grip and before the song had finished I knew I had heard one of the best electronic acts there had ever been. They opened a door to a plethora of related acts I was totally oblivious to (Sixth June, Daybed, Automelodi) in addition to Veronica Vasicka’s excellent minimal-synth archival project/label Minimal Wave.

The dull, grey thud of intermittent unemployment and bullshit jobs plagued me and many of my friends from the summer of 2011. Despite the camaraderie which comes with living in a house full of struggling artists on the dole and not knowing what the fuck they were doing, anger and disillusionment were never too far from the skint revelry. Cccandy and Youth Code were on repeat during this period, perfectly matching the corrosive effects of austerity breakdown with their volatile and abrasive synth-punk pummel. When we finally got our shit together around 2013 and found some stability and money in our pockets the pop around us seemed brighter and effervescent. ‘s ‘Pilgrim’ and Arcade Fire‘s ‘Reflektor’ were my ‘songs of the summer’, whenever I hear them now I’m taken over with a sense of sunny renewal.

Each year brought more and more fantastic music, and little did I know that I was living in the city which was at the forefront of the ‘new’. Wych Elm, New Haunts, Avon Terror Corps, E B U, Orryx all knocked me sideways and enthused me so much that I finally plucked the courage to start Heads on Sticks. Any resulting success I’ve had I owe to the mosaic of artists, labels, promoters, and radio stations that make up the Bristol music monster invigorating me to want to get stuck in.

There’s an ocean of songs to sift through but I’ve settled for 100, ten per year. 100 good friends that have seen me through the tribulations of the tumultuous decade. No hierarchy, no objective ‘best of’, just simply the story of my 2010’s, and pretty much my twenties.

I approach the 2020’s with uncertainty once again. The devastating defeat of what felt like a once in a lifetime chance of national healing has left me fearing for the future of our country. I take great comfort in knowing that I enter the new decade in a total golden age of challenging, unique, exquisite and fiercely creative music and performing art.

Thanks for the music,

Tom (a fan)

Heads on Sticks 2019

When writing ‘end of year’ anythings, it’s hard to avoid the cliché line of ‘this year was better than the last’, but it honestly feels true. It never ceases to amaze me how cutting-edge, transformative and exciting music is right now, both in my hometown of Bristol and across the world.

After spending an agonising hour trying to write something profound about the year, I instead decided to save the yakkin’ for the upcoming end of decade playlist and instead let the music do the talkin’!

Shout-outs go to Wych Elm for their cracking E.P., Grace Ive’s bedroom brilliance on 2nd, the synth punk renaissance from bands like Isotope Soap, U-Bahn and Dress Forms, and the cutting edge output of the Avon Terror Corps gang.

I hope you dig as much as I did x

The Pinheads ‘Is This Real’

Rock & Roll’s in crisis apparently, not that you’d know it when surviving any one of The Pinheads’s legendary sets. Wollongong garage-rock wildfire is sprayed onto the audience like a flamethrower with front man Jez Player bouncing off every wall in a sweaty mania, all that’s missing is the peanut butter à la Iggy, but there’s still time.

Having stormed Europe and set SXSW alight since their 2017 eponymous debut, The Pinnies have teamed up with Bristol’s Stolen Body Records for their second effort Is This Real, a further dose of acid fried surf punk with Rat Fink hot-rod acceleration intercut with sunny splashes of desert psychedelia.

The expanded palletes of sound is evident on opener ‘Pure Hate’, an 8 minute living, breathing monster which builds from Roky Erickson riffing to anthemic power rock, a confident and bold distinction from previous LP’s opening thrasher ‘Second Coming’. The druggy and dreamy ‘Innocent Crime’ belies it’s bitter core, a plea of solidarity among the fringe and socially excluded, whereas the title track is an unabashedly wistful sing-a-long, deftly demonstrating Player’s vocal strength. The daze of album closer ‘Outro’ (curiously called ‘Spread Your Love’ on their Spotify) is a twisted and strung-out trip, under the influence of Dinosaur Jr.’s ‘Poledo’, with muffled whining guitars that drift off like the waning effects of a hallucinogenic.

Don’t think for a moment that the band have lost their nitro Raw Power however. Face melting punk rock explodes in your face on ‘Satisfied’, a wild mania leaps out of your speakers like an animal, chews your face off for 3 minutes before you hit repeat for another savage. ‘No Time’ is a Nuggets stomper with tight grooving bass and screeching solos, with simmering anxiety regarding the ever polarising world tapped into on the biting ‘Not Like You’.

The Pinheads wildfire burns with the same intensity as their debut, but has the aplomb to dare punctuate the rock and roll flame with moments of introspective respite. Is This Real is a bold and electrifying confirmation of their reputation as one of down under’s greatest new acts.