thee headcoats - The I-94 Bar
This re-issue of a 1994 album by Medway’s finest sounds as brattish and vital as anything else around now, the perfect blend of punk rock and beat pop. Fashions come and go but Billy Childish remains a constant.
You think you work hard? By the time Thee Headcoats released this they had eight albums under their belts and fuck knows how many singles. Formed after Thee Mighty Caesars ground to a halt, they were an influence on everyone from Jack White to the Black Lips, Thee Oh-Sees and Jon Spencer.
How do you sum up the musical career of Billy Childish, England's finest, over two CDs or six sides of vinyl? "Punk Rock Ist Nicht Tot" (translation: Punk rock is not dead) pulls it off pretty well.
The Childish oeuvre isn't for everyone. Across various groups - the Pop Rivets, Thee Milkshakes, Thee Headcoats, Thee Mighty Caesars, Musicians Of The British Empire, The Buff Medways and CTMF among them - Billy has been the poster child for low-fi, crudely-recorded, minimalist rock and roll.
Whip smart lyrics, sometimes confessional and often sardonic or profane, delivered in the voice of a street hooligan and set against distortion and dissonance. As a guitarist, Billy is no Steve Vai and for that we can all be eternally fucking grateful.
Billy Childish is one of those artists who lives in a special and hallowed musical place. Loved or at least admired by mainstream music taste arbiters and demographic setters, these people sit firmly on the fringes and don’t give a flying fuck. They do things their own way and that’s why the rest of us love ‘em.
Billy’s been courted by the music aristocracy and has shrugged his shoulders. He lays it all out in the surging organ-tinged opener “A Song For Kylie Minogue”, right down to a request from Beck to collaborate musically. “As long as I get to sing it, boy, and you just play,” isn’t arrogance; it’s downright genius. Who doesn’t want to co-write with that Loser and make a million bucks? Billy Childish! You want to use me poetry, Kylie? "Go ahead, girl, it’s all for free".