The revitalization of Michael Head’s career has been a work in progress for over a decade. Head has often been hailed as one of the most woefully overlooked but brilliant UK songwriters to come out of the 80’s. He founded the underground Indie/cult bands Pale Fountains and Shack but never attained the mainstream success his craftsmanship deserved. The many causes of this situation were a tragic loss, the unsettled nature of the band lineups and Head’s own sad journey into substance abuse. In the last few years, Michael Head has experienced a career renaissance culminating with his new release on October 20th of “Adiós Señor Pussycat”. The album is the first full-length new material to be released in eleven years. “Adios” contains a nuanced blend of quiet folk-tinged studies and rocking introspection. It also displays an artist who has taken the good with the bad and survived gaining significant wisdom along the way.
Adiós Señor Pussycat was worked on by Head and a variety of supporting artists over a four year period and recorded from March of 2016 to June 2017. Head utilized the idea of using a fluid ever-rotating band format to capture his vision. It was recorded in his hometown of Liverpool. That city has always been the underlying inspiration for much of Head’s work and the spark for the creation of his Merseyside bands and his solo outings. Prior to the release of Adiós Señor Pussycat Head had tested the popular music waters with his 2013 EP Artorius Revisited and 2015’s double A-side Velvets in the Dark/Koala Bears. Both of which were well received and touted by the likes of Noel Gallagher and Pete Townsend. Both releases bore witness for this lost genius who had been misplaced in the subsequent chaos of the emerging Britpop era.
Adiós Señor Pussycat begins with Picasso which emerges out of static sound effects then clears away as Head’s rich and ripened voice providing a bittersweet dreamy track. It is a lovely acoustic selection with touches of Spanish Flamenco guitar and evocative strings. The song is a wondrous accompaniment to a sunny autumn morning. Overjoyed follows with a powerful uplifting triumphant aura. Celebrated are the small happenstances of life. The rousting chorus makes for a splendid song filled with unabated emotional approachability. The lush Picklock is Head at his narrative best. There are few songwriters who can transport the listener to a time and place like Head. This song is a perfect example of his singular ability. This ability shines through on other tracks like Winter Turns to Spring and Working Family. Head and co. utilize both lovely folk acoustic approaches and jangle Byrdsian rock providing luminous and transcendent tracks that become more alluring with each listen. My absolute favourite song is Josephine which is the “do not miss track” of the release. This song is a tour de force with its energy filled acoustic accompaniment and sunlit feel. Josephine and Rumer are shimmering works that have an inner warmth and effortlessness that makes them winners.
The tracks Lavender Way and Wild Mountain Thyme take advantage of an approach that Head mastered long ago on his Michael Head and the Strands release The Olde World. That styling is a blending of Olde World Folk and Country flare married to his stellar storyteller skills. The release comes to a close with Adios Amigos whose title reflects the title of the album. Here is a departure in some respects from the lyrically poetic content found in the majority of the release. The song is more overtly political mentioning the CIA and the military. However, the overall theme is more an exhortation to listeners to let go of the things that hold you back. This catchy mid-tempo rocker ends the album with a strong dose of charisma leaving the listener knowing they have encountered something unique.
Adiós Señor Pussycat signifies the welcomed return of a gifted artist. Head is the master of songwriting narrative craftsmanship and this latest release is prima facie evidence of that fact. Adiós Señor Pussycat leads one to ponder what the music world missed out on with Head not releasing new music for over a decade. After encountering this release I found myself wanting to turn back time to guide Head past the pitfalls that stymied his career. Happily, the new release turns a page on the past and one can only hope that there will be more Michael Head and the Red Elastic Band releases in our future. Additionally, there is the wish that Michael Head finally received the critical and commercial success he so deserves.