False Heads have been setting the UK on fire on their recent tour, supporting the release of their second studio album, Sick Moon. Seeing the Essex trio live always comes with a promise of a thrilling experience; they most certainly don’t hold back when they climb the stage, and together with the remarkable amount of noise they are capable of summoning this makes for an adrenaline high of a live show. This time, the mayhem is further supported by a selection of tracks from the new record, which shows an impressive growth from their already noteworthy debut, adding complexity without excess weight and broadening the band’s already distinctive rough guitar sound. Striking a good balance between the reflective and the political, the cutting lyrics complete the package and offer the audience an excellent occasion to sing along—precisely the kind of liberating experience one expects from a punk-rock show.
It is not the first time that False Heads have visited Wales, but the upstairs room at Clwb Ifor Bach might be the setting that suits them best so far; the space has somewhat of an industrial warehouse vibe to it which is a great match for the equally stripped-down, raw-around-the-edges aesthetics of the band, and for the sound, which has taken a few steps forward from the grunge and garage rock influences of the early days to venture into directions that are closer to punk and even incorporate a pinch of hardcore. To add to the eclectic vibe of the night, proceedings were opened by an excellent support act courtesy of South Wales outfit Modern Neutrals, another band with a bold and distinctive voice that has no qualms about getting up close and personal with the audience. Their intriguing mixture of blues guitars and almost-metal vocals, coupled with an energetic stage presence and a clever setlist which coupled ballads with angry, fast-paced tracks, perfectly managed to create the right atmosphere for the headliners to come on stage.
That the crowd was eagerly waiting for the main event is beyond any doubt. False Heads have always had a talent for riling their audience up in all the best ways, and they lit up the room almost immediately, launching head-first into some of the highest-energy tracks in their repertoire. There was, inevitably, plenty of moshing—it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is part of the package with this type of show; watching the crowd go wild is part and parcel of the kind of thrilling atmosphere that was the main attraction in classic punk shows, and which only few bands have the ability to organically and credibly command these days. It was clear, too, that the band members themselves were relishing it, leaning into the chaos with all that they had: vocalist Luke Griffiths walking straight into the crowd and jumping on the amp towers in some of the most emotional moments of the set.
It was a well-constructed set too, effectively showcasing a number of the tracks from the new album (including my personal favourite, ‘Haunted Houses,’ no less punchy and impressive here for the lack of Frank Turner, who produced the album and features on the studio version of the song), which displayed the potential they have to immediately connect with the audience—with at the same time, also, delivering a good amount of fan favourites. It was the latter, from ‘Ink‘ to ‘Rabbit Hole,’ which had the crowd truly abandon itself to the music, belting out the lyrics and rushing up to the stage. There was a liberating feeling to it, even more so, perhaps, because False Heads’ debut record was originally released in March 2020, right before the lockdowns, and the blow they dealt to the live music scene; going back to those tracks now and joining in all together was almost a celebration of a newly found sense of community, of the fact that grassroots music has survived and is more alive now than it ever was.
At the end of the night, the whole room needed a moment to collectively catch its breath and process what had happened, which is, in a way, the highest praise that can possibly be given to a rock gig. False Heads are certainly confirming themselves as some of the finest purveyors of controlled chaos in alternative British music, and most definitely, as something to be witnessed live in order to fully appreciate it.
Sick Moon is now out via Scruff of the Neck Records. You can buy it on vinyl here.
Photo Credit: Liam Maxwell