It can often feel like Cardiff, and Wales in general, is to some extent cut off from the main circuit of the underground or emerging rock music scene in the UK. The city, and the region, cannot boast the same amount of iconic venues and important festival as the rest of the country, and are too often left out of the tours of the new bands to watch. After an increase in public consciousness on the subject led to a push to save the few important rock music venues in Cardiff through the Save Womanby Street movement last year, it is therefore a particular pleasure to see one of the most interesting young bands on the rock scene nowadays play precisely in Womanby Street, at the Moon.
False Heads are a London trio who have been making waves on the club circuit from some years now, and who are currently on tour following the release of a critically acclaimed EP, Less is Better. In their short career they have already received accolades from the likes of Iggy Pop and Danny Fields, already manager of the Ramones, and their music has recently been aired on BBC radio (among other places). With a distinct sound that has influences in classic rock, punk and post-punk, grunge and garage rock, and a reputation for intense live shows, they are a pleasure to watch as well as one of the up-and-coming names in the British musical underground, and their tour date in Cardiff was a great occasion for lovers of rock music.
The show was unfortunately off to a late start as the decision was made to wait for the end of the friendly football match between Wales and Spain, which might come across as a somewhat questionable choice, but once it started it was a fast and tight performance from start to finish. The band’s signature sound is remarkably full-bodied – and loud – considering there is only three of them, and they have an unquestionably charismatic stage presence that had the audience nodding along and jumping around in no time, even with the constraint of the objectively cramped stage that the Moon can offer. It felt like both an intimate performance and a powerful one, reaching its peak with what might be the band’s most ear-catching song, Retina – the sound quality was excellent and the show engaging enough that it felt shorter than it was.
I have seen False Heads often compared with Nirvana and it is easy to see why – their music certainly has plenty of grunge suggestions, although at a more hectic pace and with a feeling that is more angry and challenging than melancholy – but what their distinctive brand of rock reminds me of, more than anything, is the likes of Misfits and the Stooges, and the early work from the Who. It’s a remarkably mature sound for a band so young and one that has worked through influences both British and American to produce something truly original. It is to hope that the band will hit Cardiff again when they eventually release their first album, for which expectations can no doubt be high.
The support act was provided by South Wales’ own Fire Fences, a four-piece rock band that showed some promise, albeit still weighed down at times by a slightly too powerful pop influence. Having received their own share of awards and recognition, they are without doubt another name to watch, contributing to what turned out to be a double bill that brought to the Cardiff stage a glimpse into what may well be a British rock renaissance soon to come.