Head is the sixth album by the Danish Psychedelic Garage band On Trial. This album doesn't feature any On Trial songs, but is a superb collection of covers. All these covers are played in the true vein of On Trial.
This band plays excellent versions of songs like TV Eye/Starship (Stooges/Sun Ra), You're Gonna Miss Me (13th Floor Elevators), Interstellar Overdrive (Pink Floyd), Five Years Ahead Of My Time (The Third Bardo) and more great covers. I think this album is a good representation of the influences for On Trial. Enjoy!
Fuck, yes. Have you ever seen High Fidelity, the adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel? It's about people like you and me: nerds, music geeks, people who think making superfluous lists is more fun than politics, candlelight dinners and the seventh season of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. Anyway, do you remember the introduction? A record player, a shiny surface turning, a needle touching the black, shiny vinyl, the hiss, and then… THE 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS' "You're Gonna Miss Me"! It's a great opening, not only because it starts off the movie with such a great song - a classic in rock, nothing less - but for the sheer fact it's there, at the start of this big-ass movie featuring big-ass actor John Cusack. From that moment onwards, that movie couldn't go wrong anymore. I would have loved if there had been more music talk instead of those love stories, but okay. It reminded me how my body gets electrified when hearing that song. Danish band On Trial cover that song, "You're Gonna Miss Me," and managed to evoke an identical reaction. It takes literally three seconds of that song to take me to the stage where I jump up, pump my fist into the air, whistle, wiggle my fat butt, call my girlfriend, tell her that rock and roll is my religion and give the finger to the man. It's fierce, passionate, it rocks, it swings, it's religious fervour translated into sonic waves. Head originally was a five song 10" EP released in 1999, but last year, the band added 8 more songs (and left off a live version of "Slip Inside This House," if I'm correct) and none of them is less than excellent. Of course you already knew the band's main influences because they wear 'em on their sleeves, but from the first song onwards, it's clear this is not gonna be some lame cash-in effort. It's a tribute to their heroes, a way of giving back the inspiration. Most songs - at least the ones I was familiar with - are pretty faithful and usually even more raw and straightforward, but it's definitely an On Trial album and not just a 48-minute exercise in imitation. Even though these songs were recorded in a span of several years - which is audible, as the songs from each session have their own distinctive sound - there's a unity that holds 'em together. Perhaps the most recent material contains less surprising choices, but boy do they crackle with energy! Their cover of "Parchment Farm" ("Mose Allison by ways of Blue Cheer"), released as a single, is appropriately muddy and a blues-soaked and perhaps one of their songs that resembles the vintage 1970 sound the most. The single's B-side is an ultra-psychedelic take on Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive," so crammed with disorienting, drugged, fucked-up effects that even Syd Barrett would've raised an eyebrow or two. And it's heavy! Black Sabbath heavy! Most of the five cuts that precede these two are classics in their own way: "Reverberation" could be filed under swirling psych, the kind Kula Shaker attempted to create but never quite pulled off this successfully. Love's "A House Is Not a Motel" lacks the original's restraint, making the classic solo at the end less of a surprise, but they manage to conjure up the same atmosphere with great performances, so I ain't complaining. The Stooges' "TV Eye" is an almost lethal blast, driven by super-charged turbo-bass and deliciously snotty vocals and the way it segues into the MC5's version of Sun Ra's "Starship" is pure gold. Man, squealing feedback rarely sounded this good. The last five songs were - I think - all recorded before or during the New Day Rising-sessions. Funny coincidence: Love's "Signed D.C." - wet dream alert from guitar aficionados! - was also covered by Hüsker Dü's Grant Hart. The two biggest revelations, to me at least, were songs by bands I've never heard: Third Bardo's "Five Years Ahead of My Time" and Macabre's "Be Forewarned." The first one starts off with shimmering guitars and then transcends into a deliriously distorted rocker, the second one is a fantastic slice of hypnotic rock, sounding melancholic - yes, nearly macabre - and Bo's vocals are simply great on top of that relentlessly churning riff. This is garage rock as intense as it gets, this is garage rock that makes dozens of wannabes piss their pants, this is rock and roll how I like it. What else can you say about songs that sound like they're the greatest thing ever while you blast 'em at maximum volume? The album then adds two four-track recordings, one of a fine, but not great, Stones-song ("Citadel"), the other one a desolate piece of folk-rock by Roky Erickson, perhaps the single biggest influence on the band's music and vision. Brimming with energy, dedication, psychedelic uh… experiments, insane guitar antics and all-round performances, Head manages to achieve several goals at one: it makes you curious about some bands (I am so gonna check out Macabre/Pentagram, even if it turns out it was a shit band and I'm gonna dust off those Stooges/MC5/Love/13thFE-albums), shows a band doing what they're best at (stir up some vigorous rock music) and ends up being one of the best all covers-albums I have ever heard. On Trial? Fuckin' A!
(Review by Guy Peters)
On Trial - Head (2003)