Just One Song… 001

Friday, 19 August 2011

[Editor's Note: This new column is a little different from the standard Ground Control fare, because its interest and focus is in (as the title suggests) just one song. Which song? Well, it could be any number of songs; it could be the song that spawned a life-long fan of the band who wrote and recorded it, or it could be the song that inspired the column author to stop listening completely. It could be the song that signaled the return of a particular band to the pinnacle of its powers as a creative entity or simply the one song which signals the return of a band after an extended absence from active duty. All of these events begin with just one song, because that's all a band might get to make an impression; the average listener may not be patient enough to even wait for a second before turning their radio – or CD player or record player or mp3 player (pick a format) – off. One song is a very, very big deal. This column is dedicated to a series of “One Songs,” and how they've inspired the writer, in one way or another.]

The Headstones

The Headstones certainly took their sweet time getting back into a recording studio. The last time anyone heard from the band – on 2002's The Oracle Of Hi-Fi LP – the wear was beginning to show noticeably on the group as they took lighter strokes more reminiscent of Teenage Head than the tales of hard luck and hard feelings that fans had come to crave and were exemplified by songs like “Unsound,” “Fuck You,” “Smile And Wave” and “Hearts, Love And Honour.” It was a little bittersweet and, not too long after that record was released, the group announced that they were taking a break and the members immediately went their separate ways; singer Hugh Dillon pursued his acting career and released a couple of solo albums which possessed a fraction of the fire The Headstones had, guitarist Trent Carr and bassist Tim White founded a production company and drummer Dale Harrison found work both as a musician (drumming for Teenage Head and Alannah Myles) and as an actor (appearing on Degrassi and Instant Star). While no one could fault the bandmembers for wanting to pursue their “outside projects,” even the most hopeful, diehard fans started to wonder if this “hiatus” wasn't more like a “permanent vacation” as months became years of inactivity.

Then it happened. In early 2011, it was announced that The Headstones were reconvening for a four-date mini-tour of Southern Ontario. Those four shows proved that the band hadn't lost a step in their downtime and, while Dillon may have shaved his head smooth, all the spikes which had originally hooked fans were still there in the music and performances. None of the excitement faded, and the shows were tremendously received. After that, a short note went up on the band's website saying that The Headstones were in the studio recording for the first time in almost a decade. What came from those sessions was one song called “Binthiswayforyears,” which the group released as a free download from their website on August 15, 2011.

Without indulging too much in rhetoric, the excitement and curiosity that the announcement of a new Headstones song generated was well-rewarded. From the moment Tim White's bass line begins growling a nihilistic, two-note notice, fans who have waited so patiently for the band to finally break the silence will begin to feel a familiar tingle and the itch to misbehave again. That sensation builds and, when Hugh Dillon grabs the mic and almost curses the words “I've been burned out, I've been hated/I've been fucked up and unsophisticated/A little foolish, a little jaded/I ain't complainin' the karma's been backdated,” in that familiar tone which is equal parts spit and sore feelings, fans know this is the real deal; The Headstones have returned.

Now, saying that everything about “Binthiswayforyears” is the same as it ever was might sound a little cliche, but it's hard not to feel that way for the entire two minutes and ten seconds of the song's run-time. Standing in contrast to the rock solid and grounded rhythm of Dale Harrison's drums and White's bass, Trent Carr's guitar sounds like it may careen off the rails at any moment as its squalling tones seem to teeter on the edge of a knife through the verses before slamming right into formation for the choruses, and Dillon's voice wields the same seething passion it did when the band was living the high life, leaving listeners to believe that any lightening up he may have done solo wasn't a bi-product of cleaning up so much as it was a role he simply wanted to see if he could play; through those two solo albums, the singer showed listeners he could play nice but, on “Binthiswayforyears,” he shows his true colors and proves that he still owns them. The results are a song that is as caustic and antagonistic (but still with that hair of gallows humor which has always been the band's ace in the hole) as any of the best moments from The Headstones' first four records; in fact, “Binthiswayforyears” implies that the bandmembers' aggression may have been compounded with the years of inactivity, if anything.

So what does this one song mean for The Headstones? After so many years away, the verdict is still out whether or not another full-length album might be in the band's future, but “Binthiswayforyears” renews the hope of such a possibility with ease. This song has the vengeance, now all the band has to do is record a few more to justify adding the words “back with a.”



The Headstones have released “Binthiswayforyears” as a free download from their website. Get it here

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