Review Summary: The list of adjectives I could use to describe this piece is endless. Charming, upbeat, weird, beautiful... You get my point. Severed Heads
can be described as a musical paradox of sorts. Their name implies heavy, violent music, and while they did began as an experimental tape-loop group, a good majority of their catalog is surprisingly danceable, digestible, and fun
. Much like their existence, their independently released 1998 album Haul Ass
is a contradiction of sorts. Show anyone the track titles such as “Choose Evil” and “Two Dead Daughters” and they’ll automatically assume that they’re bleak, scary songs written by deranged maniacs, when in reality those two tracks are incredibly poppy highlights of the band’s creativity.
The music on this album can easily be compared to IDM acts such as Aphex Twin
; It’s incredibly catchy and danceable while still maintaining a weird experimental edge. The album’s opening track “Choose Evil” utilizes vocal harmonies to create an infectious, upbeat groove that is repeatedly interrupted (properly, I might add) by a spoken word sample that helps smooth out the song’s pacing. It’s compelling, to say the least.
It’s almost funny, the diversity of this album. “A Mouth Full Of Marbles” is a fun little number that revolves around a short piano loop that is simply overtly happy in tone. To try and keep it short, the track sounds like it just ate enough candy and orange soda to make it’s spit hurt. Then we have “All That Matters Is You”, a track that delves inside the realms of ambient electronica, complete with a set of subtle drums and icey-cool synths.
One final note I want to make of this album is the decapitated skull himself, Tom Ellard
, and how vital he is when it comes to this record. The few occasions where he performs vocals on this record are not to be missed, for his voice is absolutely righteous, beautifully coating tracks with elegance and charm. His lyrics can also be impressive at times, as exemplified on “Interstate”:
To take me to the interstate was your first mistake,
The second came when you entered my cave,
Ultrasound and underhanded,
The cathode rays bring my naked display,
I’m clothed in shame between my flesh and my name,
I entered the flame before my first birthday…
The only thing the album has that’s going against it is the useless filler tracks, such as “Lufthansa”, which bring nothing worthwhile to the table. Other than that, Haul Ass
is a wonderful display of colorful creativity that’s well worth the listen. The catchiness, along with the band’s charm, makes it one hell of a musical ride. Also, the inclusion of “Sevs In Space” makes listening to the album in it’s entirety completely worth it, simple descriptions on why that track is a standout won’t do it justice.