Headstones - One In The Chamber Music (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


One In The Chamber Music (2014)

Universal Music

Canadian (Kingston based) alternative-rock band Headstones have undeniable punk influences, especially evident within their live shows (Hugh Dillon, it would appear, is, in many ways, a real life Joe Dick) and the ‘taboo’ topics of many of their songs.

Their newest album, One In The Chamber Music, was, like their previous album Love + Fury, funded by fans through PledgeMusic. One In the Chamber Music is the second album the band has released since their reformation in 2011, and it has a completely different sound from the previous album. Where Love + Fury featured all new electric music (and a rather good ABBA cover), One In The Chamber Music is a collection of acoustic versions of old songs, with two new tracks (“Colourless” and “Laugh Lines”). It is, overall, the best of their two post-2011 releases. The stripped down versions of their classic songs are, perhaps, more powerful than their originals.

The album leads off with one of their new tracks, “Colourless.” Though the album is an acoustic one, including the first track, the new material sounds more like classic Headstones than any of the songs off of their previous albums. It’s personal, it’s got references (Dali this time), Hugh Dillon’s vocals are exactly what a Headstones’ fan would expect, and it definitely rocks. When a band gets back together after a period of inactivity, it’s hard to know what you’re going to get... but “Colourless” is everything someone could want from a new Headstones’ track.

“Smile and Wave”, originally off of the album of the same name, is the first acoustic version of a fan-favourite. And it doesn't fall flat. It has the essence of the original song in its acoustic sound while still being something entirely different. It’s definitely the highlighted bass guitar that makes the acoustic version shine. “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” sounds like it should have been acoustic from the beginning: it’s a rock’n’roll story. And, of course, it’s a Travelling WIlburys cover. It’s got a slightly darker sound, like the original and is a nice compliment to “Smile and Wave”. “Pinned You Down”, originally off of Nickels for Your Nightmares starts with a focus on percussion and palm-muted guitar; it’s on this song that you get the low, whispery side of Dillon’s voice.

The acoustic version of “Swinging”, off of Teeth and Tissue, is one of the highlights of the album. It’s an easy song to overlook, especially in its electric version, but it’s a powerful song about one of Hugh Dillon’s most personal topics: addiction and suicide. With the softer, acoustic sound of this version, it’s much easier to highlight the vocals in the song and, in particular, the lyrics. But pay attention -- it’s the last line that’ll hit you like a punch to the stomach. It’s a pretty song that is much more than that: it’s one that deserves a close listen.

Following “Swinging” is the second new song off of the album, “Laugh Lines”. It starts off quietly, with a focus on guitar and vocals, but after a brief stop, it picks up speed with harder guitar strumming, but it keeps the same basic sound, and eventually changes once more, to a more staccato style of strumming, before moving back to the original, picked pattern.

On an album of fan-favourites, it’s only natural that “Cemetery”, one of the most popular Headstones tracks about one of those taboo topics (necrophilia, in this case), would be among the tracks. The song, with the focus on heavy bass and vocals, has a different, darker, sound than the previous songs; but, given the content of the tune, it seems only natural. The acoustic version is just as catchy as the original electric version.

“Look Away”, the next song, is a pretty stark contrast to “Cemetery”, and it’s another highlight of the album. It has a quick tempo, a catchy chorus, and features clapping by the studio audience (those who donated a specific amount to the production of the album). The content of the song (featuring lines such as “Maybe if I make it home tonight, Not to get torn apart or knifed in a fistfight”) isn't light, but the song itself is a contrast to that -- it’s upbeat and it just sounds fun. “Without a Sound” is a song about a woman’s elaborately planned suicide, with guitars that move from a picked guitar riff into strumming, featuring harmonica. The song, like its electric counterpart, is a relatively pretty one.

Just like with “Cemetery”, the inclusion of “When Something Stands For Nothing” seems inevitable. It doesn't deviate too much from the original version; it sounds exactly like the Headstones’ typical music, only not so loud. And, once again, it features the necessary harmonica. “Million Days In May”, even in its original incarnation, is a slower, softer song (in the beginning and end, anyway). In this version, however, it is'nt loud electric guitars that join in to make the song heavier: it’s strings. It’s that that really gives the song it’s new, different sound.

“Three Angels”, originally off of the Headstones’ first album, Picture of Health, also features those strings -- and a new sort of vocal style from Hugh Dillon (then again, the song was originally released in 1993, so it’s only to be expected). The song slows things down quite a bit, and keeps that quieter, slower sound through the entire track. “Won’t Wait Again” picks things right back up, though; the tempo is much quicker, and rocks a little harder than the previous songs have.

The final song on the album is another real highlight -- of course, it was a highlight and a powerful song on the album it originally appeared on, Smile & Wave. “Cubically Contained” is, I would venture, one of the most powerful of Headstones’ songs. It is, after all, very clearly about Hugh Dillon’s experiences with addiction. The acoustic version, as in the case of “Swinging”, makes it all the more powerful. The riff combined with the addition of strings in the background make it an absolutely beautiful song, and when you pair that with the powerful, charged lyrics, it makes for an absolutely potent track. You almost feel as if you’re intruding on something. It is, of course, an incredibly strong end to a very well balanced album.

One In The Chamber Music is a huge improvement on the sound of the previous album. Though they go acoustic here, they sound more like themselves. The music (including the new tracks) is powerful and it absolutely has staying power. It’s an all-around good, well-balanced album, one that deserves a little extra attention.