White Label Friday: Severed Heads, “Big Car”

Written by Music, White Label

whitelabel.gif Popdose raids the Nettwerk vaults once again and unearths a dandy little electro-pop track from a band better known for making more, um, challenging music. Not even AllMusic could resist making a less than flattering judgment of their work: “Severed Heads specialize in bizarre electronic sound collages that may or may not be entirely tolerable.” Ouch.

They were most decidedly not referring to the band’s 1989 single “Big Car” (download) with that blanket statement. Indeed, one wonders if main Severed Head Tom Ellard created the track out of sheer jealousy over synth-pop acts like Camouflage and Information Society scoring (brief) worldwide success the previous year. You can practically hear Ellard saying to himself, “Fuck, if those idiots can get a hit record, I sure as hell can.” Of course, he didn’t, but let’s not let that get in the way of enjoying one of the most interesting dance tracks from the era.

That New Order would be a huge influence on the track’s sound is a given — in 1989, if you were making alternative dance pop, you modeled yourself after either New Order or Depeche Mode — but it helps to be a fan of the Dream Academy as well; Ellard’s voice is feather light, and the female backing vocals, along with the hyper-processed speaking-in-tongues bit, result in a melody airier than “The Love Parade.” Wisely, Ellard anchors the song with a series of percussion tracks, each more closely resembling the band’s industrial past than the last. These beats pile on top of each other during the instrumental break, coming to a head with a vocal sample of a woman yelling, “All the way to the bottom, Maggie! You made it!” At which point, she screams her lungs out, which Ellard loops over an eight count. To this day, Google refuses to reveal the source of that line of dialogue.