- The last few years have been kind to Severed Heads, the resurgent industrial dance band founded by Tom Ellard. In the midst of European and American tours, their scuzzy proto-rave material has undergone a reevaluation, especially in terms of how it might work on a dance floor. This has been thanks in part to a glut of well-considered reissues by Dark Entries. Come Visit The Big Bigot is the most substantial one to date.
The album was the pinnacle of the group's cavalier exploration into the world of backmasking, tape splicing and all the processed effects the period had to offer. Come Visit The Big Bigot is a tonally dark album, speckled with dirt and petrol, but the reissue has been remastered with better equipment than the rudimentary Roland and Akai drum machines that provided the foundation for the 1986 original. (Whether the sampling of a smashed watermelon, launched from a window and crunching onto the concrete below, has been attempted a second time is unknown.)
The album's 84-minute length can be a slog to get through at first. Tracks like "Confidence" surge and stagger as if a drunk Ellard were standing over you. Across the album, his dark mutterings conjure feelings of discomfort and displacement, adding curdled texture to an already noisy palette. He spins absurdist tales of army-bound girlfriends and travelling showmen riddled with bullets, safari romps in Mozambique and a "tête-à-tête in Tel Aviv"—but it's barely distinguishable at times, as if heard through the wall of an adjacent room.
The LP's primary focus, though, is the gnarly soundscapes and loping, forthright basslines. "Legion"'s modulated throb meets tampered vocals to come off like garbled phone calls from another world. As the electricity-experiment-gone-wrong of "Casey's Ion" bursts through into the drum workout of "Propellor," with screams from the former track still audible, it's an emphatic moment and a genuine thrill. "Propellor" flirts with the showy synth pop songwriting of the time. Its hi-NRG glide recall New Order at their most speed-addled and loose—with a bit of muck wiped off the recording desk, it could have been a hit. It would still do dance floor damage in the right hands today.
The reissue includes eight offcuts and extended edits. The additional material is a combination of smoothed-out tools that play off the shoulder of originals ("Disease 22," "Disease 23") and treats for completists, like "George The Animal," missing from the North American release in '86. A captivating change is found in "Son Of," which shows Ellard at his most vulnerable. His wavering voice here is a precursor to the bleary-eyed ballads of bands like The Horrors, Disco Inferno and Nine Inch Nails. The extended version of "Harold And Cindy Hospital" improves the already strong original by the simple addition of space in the mix.
This album isn't a natural entry point if you're looking to get into Severed Heads. The band's singles compilation, Bulkhead, might be the easiest route for first-timers to get a feel for the band. Come Visit The Big Bigot captures them in a point of transformation where the band's early psych experiments still linger, before Ellard drove it deeper down a more electronic rabbit hole. For every chugging "Propellor," there's also a skin-crawling nightmare like "Sam Loves You," and that's not for everyone. But Severed Heads manage to look fabulous perched on a smouldering scrapheap. You get the sense it's where they belong.
01. Come Visit The Big Bigot
02. Twenty Deadly Diseases
04. Phantasized Persecutory Breast
05. Casey's Ion
08. Sam Loves You
09. Strange Brew
10. Harold and Cindy Hospital
12. Harold And Cindy Hospital (Casualty Mix)
13. Twenty Deadly Diseases (Extended Mix)
14. Disease 22
15. Disease 23
16. Son Of
17. George The Animal
18. Nature 10
19. Propellor Three (Kamikazee Mix)