If you don’t know what a “Vinyl Disc” is, that’s OK. It was a niche format that only last a year or two. Essentially it’s a CD with an LP groove on the label side. You could get over 80 minutes on a single disc this way, by placing a bonus track on the vinyl side. The Hellacopters, however, aren’t an 80 minute album kind of band. Head Off, their final CD, is only 35 minutes long, plus a 3:20 bonus track on the vinyl side.
Head Off is a covers album, but having heard none of the originals, that wasn’t immediately obvious. They usually do songs you’ve never heard of. Covers or not, Head Off is a pretty great collection of the kind of hard rocking melodic gems that the Hellacopters usually specialize in anyway.
The hands-down best track is the last one on the CD: “Darling Darling” originally by The Royal Cream. Hard rock with melancholy melody and a guitar solo that slays. There’s even a Kiss “Easter egg” in the Hellacopters’ version. We already know they are Kiss fans since they even have a track called “Paul Stanley”, using a bit of one of the man’s awesome riffs. This time, the Hellacopters lifted a lick that Paul plays live on the intro to “Black Diamond”. You can hear the lick in the outro, at the 3:00 mark in “Darling Darling”. The original is found in “Black Diamond” at the 18 second mark, on Kiss Alive! The Hellacopters turned it into one of the best hooks in “Darling Darling”, and it happens to fit like a glove. A leather glove, with tassels.
Back to the start, the album opens with a punky rock and roll vibe. “Electrocute” is by a Swedish band called Demons, and this excellent boogie-woogie will make you want to check ’em out. Another killer, “Midnight Angels” (The Peepshows) is melodic rock nirvana. How are these not the biggest rock songs in the world already? “I’m Watching You” (The Humpers) is a blitz, heads-a-bangin’ along. It slows a bit on “No Salvation” (The Turpentines), which turns towards down a darker alley, though just as ear-pleasin’. “In the Sign of the Octopus” (The Robots) is like a vintage Kiss track circa Love Gun, lost to the ages but just as good as the songs you remember. The Robots stole my love! The New Bomb Turks are covered next on “Veronica Lake”, pure good time punk rock. Boogie piano makes it accessible to even the strictest hard rocker.
The CD continues to rock through track after track of brilliance that you’re probably unfamiliar with. Every song is stuffed with hooks and melodies, no ballads. The Hellacopters treat each one with the kind of guitar thunder they’re known for. There are no duds anywhere on the entire album, and even though it’s all covers, it’s not uneven or inconsistent. You would completely believe that all the tunes were originals, if you didn’t know ’em. “Rescue” (Dead Moon) could have been a Hellacopters song, easily. Even the soulful “Making Up For Lost Time” (The Bellrays) sounds natural to this band.
The only track that is a letdown is “Straight Until Morning” (The Powder Monkeys), the bonus track on the vinyl side. As discussed in the article about Vinyl Discs, the audio quality on this side is utterly atrocious. Especially when compared to the sharp sounding CD side, this track is flat and noisy. It is, however, the heaviest and punkiest song on the album, so perhaps this is appropriate? Even intentional?
Ignoring the sonic issues on the vinyl side, which was really just a novelty factor, Head Off is worth a solid:
This limited edition also included a pin and a patch, so if you’re looking for your own copy, make sure it’s complete!