Head First

rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Larger Than Movies
02. Shine All The Time
03. Sand Castles
04. Stars of Life
05. Never Understood a Word
06. Alive
07. Assembly
08. Freedom's a Fake
09. Kick
10. New Adventures
11. Daddy Long Legs
12. Deaf Rap
13. Lot of Me
14. Batman
15. Sleepwalk

One may have to be of a certain age and disposition to be remotely excited by the phrase "funk-metal." The arrival of HEAD FIRST seems to suggest that there are more than a few of us out there, pining for the glory days when bands like FAITH NO MORE, pre-suck RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, FISHBONE and MORDRED gleefully blurred the lines between metal and funk and produced a fair amount of fantastic music. Obviously, funk-metal was not built to last and both grunge and nu-metal were far bigger commercial propositions in the years that followed. Listening to this is a sharp reminder that it was absurdly entertaining and considerably more inventive than many of the cross-pollinated subgenres that came later.

HEAD FIRST get everything right here. They sound like a (much better produced) amalgam of all the best funk-metal era bands, but with songs that seldom feel contrived or in thrall to a sound from 30 years ago. In fact, "Head First" will make you wonder why there aren't more bands playing this stuff right now.

HEAD FIRST have a knack for profoundly catchy, AOR-tinged pop-rock songs, but all rendered in the slap-bass and razor-wire guitars of the funk-metal greats. "Shine All The Time" is almost VAN HALEN-like in its shiny insouciance, while "Stars of Life" is an outrageously sweet and summery stroll with strong echoes of (early) 311 and the swaggering swing of "Truth And Soul"-era FISHBONE. Elsewhere, "Sand Castles" weaves some syrupy dub into the equation; "Alive" is a sublime throwback to snotty rapping and sinewy riffs, with a groove that will definitely refuse to quit; "Kick" is like some brilliant, long, lost LIVING COLOR outtake from the early '90s; "Deaf Rap" deftly harnesses the power of crossover thrash; "Lot of Me" brings a lascivious grin and smooth soul vibes to a tale of rampant but cheerful narcissism. Every last bit of it sounds tailor-made for drunken summer nights and bad dancing.

Possibly a tad overlong at a generous 59 minutes, "Head First" is both an impassioned paean to a much overlooked strain of heavy music, and a genuinely uplifting introduction to its creators. It sounds like it was a disgusting amount of fun to make.

Author: Dom Lawson
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