Album Reviews

Field Of Heads by Billy Mahonie – (Whistling Sam Projects)

Post Rock legends back with new LP

Post Rock quartet’s first studio LP for 14 years and it’s a blinder

Post rock is a strange beast, and is often used to describe the indescribable by some people. Growing from the seeds sown by such luminaries Slint and Pram in the late 80s and early 90s, through to the so called 2nd wave in mid 90s with the likes of Tortoise, Trans AM, Mogwai and God Speed You Black Emperor! You could even make a pretty healthy case for the likes of Velvet Underground and Public Image Ltd as precursors of the genre. Formed in 1997 London’s Billy Mahonie, releasing their debut The Big Dig 2 years later. Now 15 years on from their last album, 2009’s BM, the band return with their self-released 5th studio album Field Of Heads on their own label Whistling Sam Projects and the first to feature the original line up in nearly a quarter of a century. Post rock also comes in two main flavours, with or without vocals. Whilst some bands mix it up, and in the case of Mogwai, progressively adding more vocals with each release, Billy Mahonie have remained firmly in the latter camp.

Recorded over two long weekends on either side of the Covid-19 lock downs, the band tracked at The Church studios, owned by their former collaborator and front of house engineer Paul Epworth, with senior engineer Luke Pickering at the controls, allowing ‘Field Of Heads’ to quickly take shape. The 8 tracks have a distinctly progressive jazz feel, sprawling, soaring and occasionally reaching a crescendo before dropping back down to a murmur. This is certainly true of opening track Atomic Clock.

Track 2 Kaiju, [Japanese, meaning “strange beast” and used to describe the likes of Godzilla movies] starts out like a mash up of The Cure’s – Jumping Someone Else’s Train and QOTSA’s – No One Knows, a really driving up beat shrill guitar work out, with a Faith No More vibe. To be honest, it’s a little disingenuous to consider it to be post rock when the roots I mention are most definitely rock! Never the less it’s a great track.

On Hearts Vs Minds, Gavin Bakers work also has a feel of early Robert Smith guitar too. Spy Guy is another 3 minute meander through the post rock foothills, punctuated by shimmering cymbal work from Howard Monk, before morphing into a more forceful full on (post) rock out for the final 3 minutes, where Baker shakes off Fat Bob and takes aim at Carlos Santana.

One problem I’ve always had with listening to so much music is remembering song titles, made doubly difficult by instrumental pieces!! The More I Know You has some quite funky guitar work, underpinned by a steady metronomic back beat and after several listens I’m beginning to remember the track title!! [see what I did there? No? Ok, please yourself!]

Impossible Sky is the sound of a esoteric Glaswegian daybreak brought to you by Postcard Records and Tributer reminds me of Public Service Broadcasting’s more strident moments.

Closer, Dry Season sadly couldn’t be more apposite as I stare out the window, readying myself for the start of the 2024 UK Festival Season and a trip to Bearded Theory! With it’s spaghetti western meets Joy Division piercing harmonica and funeral procession drums, it’s a melancholic ending to a fine return. If this is the kind of thing you like, there’s an emotion for every occasion, interwoven into the very fabric.

One piece of advice lads. Don’t leave it so long next time!

Field of Heads is out 24th May on all the usual platforms but also from the band themselves here. There is also a 12″ Blue Vinyl limited edition version, which is only available from Indie Record shops.

The band will also be holding an exclusive “Listening Party” today Weds 22nd May at 7pm BST. To register and find out more by clicking the link

‘Field Of Heads’ track-listing:

1. Atomic Clock

2. Kaiju

3. Hearts vs Minds

4. Spy Guy

5. The More I know You

6. Impossible Sky

7. Tributer

8. Dry Season

Check out Social Media Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp | Twitter | Whistling Sam Projects

About The Author

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Andi Callen (Contributing Editor)

Original punk. Done everything there is to do in music, except run a record label! Addicted to noise and taking photographs of live music. Based on NW England, I've previously contributed to Louder Than War, MancAndi, The Punk Site, and Backseat Mafia, where I was Punk/Post Punk & Live Editor. Part of the original review team when Rocksound Magazine first started.
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