The Bukowskian title of this release alone suggested that Head was still embracing the kind of dissolute aesthetic that characterized their 1987 debut, A Snog on the Rocks. Indeed, Tales of Ordinary Madness offered much of the same: more bluesy, funky, post-pub rock songs about sleaze and booze, often laced with sophomoric innuendo. Of course, the near-novelty dimension of Head was a knowing performance. At their most shambolic and eccentric, the band's arrangements belie highly accomplished musicianship, while a lyrical tendency toward campy silliness masks a literate sensibility. Listeners are immediately clued in to Head's tongue-in-cheek dynamic here by the liner art itself, which features a collage of images placed in ironic contrast: a neo-classical painting, kitschy soft-core porn, a photograph of avant-garde dramatist Antonin Artaud (in a particularly manic pose), and the slogan "Cider Makers Think of Themselves as Artists" collide to embody the band's playful juxtaposition of the cultured and the banal. While "Tiger Tiger" finds vocalist Rich Beale referencing William Blake's 1794 poem The Tyger, the album's centerpiece is the mock-dramatic "1000 Hangovers Later." On this slow-blues mini-epic, a voice speaks F. Scott Fitzgerald's cautionary words ("First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you") amid Beale's histrionic vocal performance. Other highlights are the harder-edged numbers: the swaggering, horn-enhanced funk rock of "Jesus Ain't Got a Daddy" -- with its absurd narrative and its heavily West-Country accented drinking-song interlude -- and the guitar-driven "32a," complete with its anthemic one-man-crowd, punk rock chorus. Nevertheless, like its predecessor, this album of thinking/drinking person's rock is the sound of underachievement, of a band unwilling or unable to consistently focus their undeniable talents -- a characteristic that would return to mar the band's aptly entitled swan song, Intoxicator, the following year.
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AllMusic Review by Wilson Neate