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Thee Headcoats

Damaged Goods

How can I make you believe in Billy Childish’s Headcoats? Can an aging Brit who has recorded at least 100 discs you’ve never heard be worth your trouble? Admittedly, it’s a tough sell, especially because the guy cranks out garage-rock anthems in the era of Madonna and Shakira. We all love anthems, but Childish takes his production cues from that “Dawn of Man” section of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which an ape hits bone against bone. Guitars scrape, drums pound, and the bass rubs and throbs. If you strap on a pair of headphones, Childish groans and moans so up close and personal that you feel as if he’s breathing—very heavily—right next to you. On this 50-song compilation, his second in 10 years, Childish plays in three modes: “Wild Thing,” “Roadrunner,” and “Brand New Cadillac” (the Clash version). Despite their aesthetic, his songs sound deep and lived-in. Childish’s voice gives off not record-collector dweebiness, but the authority of owning what he sings, screams, and bellows. In the same way Aretha Franklin owns everything she performs, Childish possesses every garage-rocker he shakes his fist to. But what’s the real reason you should bother? Because Childish is a genuine weirdo. Why else would he run through three different versions of “Louie Louie,” each with guesses at what the original words might be? Why else would he turn the Beatles’ “Help” into something purely creepy, slurring the lyrics in a drooling old man’s voice? And he can also scream the word “fuck” better than anybody else. Listen to Nick Cave wrap his jowls around “motherfucker” sometime and then listen to Childish’s “(We Hate the Fuckin’) NME”: You’ll feel the difference—and see the light. —Jason Cherkis