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24 April 2017

Thee Headcoats - 'W.O.A.H! - Bo In Thee Garage' (Get Hip)

Consistency is a virtue, right? And maybe so is prolificness (is that a word?). Discogs lists only 19 full-length albums by Thee Headcoats, which is fewer than I expected, but then Billy Childish has spread his vision over a variety of bands and pseudonyms (which are surveyed nicely on the Archive from 1959 compilation from a few years back) besides this one. Somehow this LP is all I have managed to accumulate, even though they're all eminently listenable examples of a real scene, postmodern primitivism
at its finest. This is a conceptual one, I guess, being entirely made up of Bo Diddley covers. It's recorded live in mono, and it sounds more or less like a dictaphone recording of a raunchy garage-rock band banging it out in some room somewhere -- which is precisely what this is.  Childish translates Diddley's swagger well through his vocals, and the covers are fairly faithful; nothing is sped up or riffed upon (as far as I can tell - I'm not quite super familiar with the originals), and there's a ramshackle quality that suits the material well. 'Greatest Lover in the World' sounds great when recast from the mouth of a white Englishman; 'Keep Your Big Mouth Shut' shows his own vocal capabilities, and has a nice sassy snarl to it. Somehow this all works and doesn't raise any obvious questions about race or appropriation: it's a tribute that is fun, heartfelt, and an easy listen. The rough fidelity helps - it's as much about the sound of this record as the performance, if this makes any sense. Mono records on vinyl often sound great, and this is blistering and raw, especially when the cymbals start to blur together into a tinny haze. Somehow everything is exuberant enough to work, and thus this document of a band likely just fucking around one afternoon, nearly 30 years ago now, is somehow completely fresh and living.

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