Saturday, 25 March 2017
Oliver!: Bleach - Headless (13 March 1992)
So, after all that blues music, we're back up to date - well, 1992 at any rate - with the return of Peel's Ipswich based neighbours, Bleach.
Headless is a wonderful example of drone rock; that form of eastern inspired loud guitar music which Western pop groups have aspired to ever since Dave Davies of The Kinks hit upon the underlying riff throughout See My Friends. By the early 90s, "drone rock" became a useful catch-all phrase for groups who were ballsier than the average shoegazers but not ragged enough to fall under grunge. Bleach always rocked harder than the former, but played with greater clarity than the latter. Salli Carson's vocals remained a trump card - tuneful enough to be ethereal and floaty when the situation called for it, but in the main she sounded tough, unimpressed and blithely confrontational. Headless starts out with a set of repeated phrases that come close to blandly aspirational. "You can be anyone you want to be" etc, but as the track progresses it becomes darker. Exactly who is Carson in this track? She sounds like prostitute, Bree Daniels in Klute setting up her mark - letting the client dictate "the scene of anything they want to be". And like Bree, the protagonist is just killing time until something better comes along. The complexity of the relationship between people who pay for and provide sex for money is stamped all over this song, as Carson affirms that she will be there for her mark, if they call for her, but that her over-riding emotion towards them is pity ("You think you're cool, but I don't envy you"). But she should also have pity for herself, because escape seems a long way off, and she recognises that she is at the service of people who are unable to develop or grow themselves, but that concurrently, serving their desires is everything (all?) she knows. The image of her at the turnstile, a commodity waiting to be bought, is incredibly affecting despite the musical onslaught around it. The central drone reflects how the prostitute removes herself, emotionally/intellectually from the situations she enables - making herself headless in these encounters. This is no tart with a heart, but a dispassionate offer of services rendered to clients whose primal, urgent needs are reflected by the relentless rush of the music around her, that desperate race to the finish line as the client tries to reach satisfaction before the allotted hour is up.
One of the best tracks of the 1992 Peel shows that I've heard so far.
Video courtesy of beko icons.