The tale of Michael Head, leader of some of the foremost groups in Scouse music mythology, is often told.
The man behind Shack, The Pale Fountains and The Strands is often vaunted as the nation’s great ‘lost’ songwriter, whose brilliance was halted on multiple occasions just as he was on the verge of mass acclaim.
Whether through his personal struggles (Head has overcome heroin addiction twice), shady industry types or plain bad luck, he has remained a heralded cult figure rather than the lauded musical leviathan he should have been.
The records he did produce hold up to that mythology. Shack’s Waterpistol and H.M.S. Fable from 1995 and 1999 and The Strands’ The Magical World of The Strands in particular remain high in the British, let alone Liverpudlian, canon. Those two Shack albums, above all, should be held in the same esteem as literally any songwriter of Head’s day; they’re streets ahead of pretty much everything Britpop’s fading flame produced in the latter half of that decade.
Adiós Señor Pussycat, the first full-length LP with his current group The Red Elastic Band, feels most akin to H.M.S. Fable and Waterpistol. It captures that same intense melancholy, the blend of the unflinchingly confessional and the bottomless warmth that makes Head so loved, his unfussy but beautiful words delivered by his low, cracked vocal imbued with lashings of shy soul. Head is vaunted as one of the great British songwriters for a reason, and never has this been so apparent as on this sensitive work, lilting from one emotion to the next with a grand but smooth swing.