Sunburned Hand of the Man, the sprawling freeform Massachusetts collective, are reissuing their 2002 album Headdress to mark its 20th anniversary. The remastered edition arrives on October 28 via Three Lobed. Listen to a refreshed version of “The Illness” from the album below.
Since assembling in 1994, Sunburned Hand of the Man have issued several dozen studio albums and live recordings, the band’s membership changing constantly over the years. The group’s most recent LP was last year’s Pick a Day to Die, which was followed with an archival release and newly recorded live material. In a statement about the Headdress reissue, founding member Robert Thomas recounted its recording, citing Peter Green–era Fleetwood Mac as a significant influence on the band’s sound at the time. The band’s lineup at the time included guitarist Marc Orleans, who died in June 2020.
All products featured on Pitchfork are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Sunburned Hand of the Man: Headdress
I can remember the details of this recording vividly. I recall locking into this rhythm with John Moloney on drums (I played bass) and the rest of the band elevating around us. I looked out at the crowd and saw J. Mascis standing next to Tom Verlaine and they were both laughing as they watched us. Simultaneously in the distance, a group of young women who had wandered onto the common burst out into a spontaneous and beautiful synchronized cheerleading routine, perfectly in sync with our rhythms. A breeze suddenly kicked up and some of the fresh fallen & brightly hued leaves of the early New England autumn started floating gently through the air around us as we slid into cruise control. The searing, fluid lead guitar of the late, great Marc Orleans began to hover above the band and then merge into the tone of David Bohill with a very sympathetic magic. We played together constantly in those days and the 3 guitars of Orleans, Bohill and Rich Pontius would often layer and blend into one another until it was difficult to determine who was playing what. At its very peak, their guitars would meld into what sounded like one huge instrument and I think some of this is evident here. Listening back now, I’m reminded of what a profound influence the 3 guitar attack of “Then Play On” era Fleetwood Mac was on this particular lineup of the band with Orleans especially having mastered a Peter Green like approach to his leads. The uncanny & beguiling electronics of Chad Cooper smear & vibrate around this track with eerie elegance (as they do throughout the whole album). Given the technical crudity with which we recorded those sets back then (2 mics plugged into a cassette deck) I’m struck by how accurately and evenly we were able to catch the full sound of the group on these tapes. The fidelity is obviously “lo” but we really did capture the way the band sounded in the flesh in those days.