Album Reviews

Severed Heads: Stretcher (Medical Records)

Severed Heads
Stretcher: U.S.A. Stretched Version
Medical Records

Australian-based electronic group Severed Heads defies categorization. They’ve never been ones to sit still creatively, and their prolific output is filled with records that do not fit snugly in any one definitive category. One minute, they’re New Wave, and then suddenly, they’re making experimental computer sounds, which then begets industrial, which then…well, I think you get the picture.  Stretcher, a compilation of essential tracks, was conceptualized in 1985 as a way to introduce the band to a wider international audience. However, when the band presented it to labels around the world, several labels wanted to alter the track list, and in so doing, three variations appeared. This reissue compiles the tracks from the variants, to finally give Severed Heads the introduction they intended.

For the most part, Stretcher does an excellent job of capturing Severed Heads’ m.o. at the time—intelligent and occasionally humorous underground dance music. Sometimes their music is heavily reliant on samples (“Don’t Say It,” “Oscar’s Grind”), and sometimes it’s straightforward singing (“Petrol,” “Mambo Fist Miasma”). Sometimes the music choppy, heavy, and dark (“Big Blue Is Back,” “Here Comes Your Fire,”) while sometimes it is pure, unadulterated dance groove (“Dead Eyes Opened,” “Heat Seeking Susan”). Their more experimental side is represented with one of their finer ambient pieces, the ten minute epic “Spurned,” while the closing “Junkhead Spins” is one of their weirder abstract pieces.

A single compilation cannot fully encapsulate the depth and the breadth of Severed Heads, but this expanded Stretcher does an excellent job of showing just how far the Severed Heads had grown over the course of its first five years. There’s lots of music to hear, and this is an excellent place for new listeners to start. 

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