Album Review: Head Games

Head Games, the third album by Foreigner [1], was a successful album that continued the success of the band’s first two albums. The cover of this album hints of some kind of trouble, where an attractive teenager dressed a bit provocatively is using toilet paper to wipe off writing in a men’s bathroom while looking back in a shy and embarrassed way at the camera. Some of the writing that can be seen, unsurprisingly, references Foreigner’s musical body of work, including “Double Vision,” their previous album, as well as “I’ll Get Even With You,” one of the songs on this album. Given the turmoil that would soon erupt in the band, the album’s reference to mental tricks is certainly an intriguing one. Here is a track-by-track review:

Dirty White Boy: This fast-paced rock song was one of the bigger hits from the album, barely missing the top 10, and tells the story of a man glorying in being the paramour of a married woman [2]. The celebratory tone of the music is at odds with the rather shameful and unpleasant lyrical content about the degredation of the narrator by his affair. Of course, at the time this album was released in the late 1970’s, the degredation was probably not fully recognized either by the band or by their fans.

Love On The Telephone: After a driving and melodic introduction, the song tells the story of a man on the road trying to keep up a relationship through the telephone. As is common with this band, there is the concern about a lover being honest and faithful, concerns that are presumably mutual given the fact that artists on the road are subject to a great deal of temptations that are not always dealt with successfully. In its own way, this song is related to a whole family of songs about relationships that suffer from distance and the lack of intimate contact for long periods of time while an artist is on tour, and on those grounds, it is a worthwhile song in context.

Women: This song, with its bluesy music and lyrics, sounds like a country rock track about various types of women, some of whom are good for a man and some of whom are not, is the sort of track that one does not expect to see on a Foreigner album. Had cross-formatting been a more common phenomenon, this could have easily hit the country charts, but as an arena rock band, this somewhat repetitive song makes for an intriguing album track that shows a broad range of material.

I’ll Get Even With You: This song, with its driving and almost new-wave sound, strongly resembles The Cars, and once again demonstrates the ability of Foreigner to adopt a wide variety of styles to deliver a solid song about a theme that is very familiar with the band: a dysfunctional relationship where the narrator promises revenge and karmic justice. This song is an example where a song title explains exactly what a song is about.

Seventeen: This is an intriguing and even somewhat creepy song about the narrator showing jealousy about the sort of men his seventeen year old partner has been talking to, wondering about the faithfulness of his attractive and much younger partner. Given the dark and brooding nature of this song, this song appears to reflect the insecurity that results when people are in intimate relationships with people they do not entirely trust, and the repetition of the age of the young lady in question reflects the narrator’s doubts of her emotional maturity even as he feels strongly attracted by her presumable physical maturity.

Head Games: This song, the title track and the second big hit off this album, fits a pattern on this album and in Foreigner’s larger body of work of paranoia and suspicion about a lover. Apparently, for reasons not entirely easy to understand, the narrator gets involved in dysfunctional relationships where communication breaks down and where there are misunderstandings and lots of complicated head games. Clearly, the narrator would like to make love, but a lot of songs on this album and others by the band relate to mistrust, and it is unclear what the narrator needs to do to improve matters, as this is not a healthy trend.

The Modern Day: This song, a glorious synth ballad, marks a stylistic departure from the rest of the album, and if it laments the modern day, it does so in a way that is beautiful and melodic. This is an example of a gem of an album track that could have and even should have been a big hit, but was instead relegated to near the end of an album, instead of being well-known as a song of tenacity and seizing personal responsibility for life, a much better message to promote than some of the messages promoted by this album’s hit singles.

Blinded By Science: This slow and melancholy ballad follows the previous song in speaking pessimistically about the present world, expressing pessimism in the capacity of the times to provide clarity of truth and a safe place free from deception. One might expect, from the title, a witty and ironic song in the vein of Thomas Dolby’s hit single, but what one finds is a song full of fear, the sort of fear that drives people to see the world as a very dark and unfriendly place.

Do What You Like: This song a lovely but sad mid-tempo track, gives a message that is understated and sad. The narrator tells his partner to do what she likes, while warning her that the path she is on will lead to an unhappy breakup. It is sad that the narrator is so pessimistic about the ability to work through problems that he invites someone to do what he knows will lead to the end of their relationship, a cycle that this band sings about over and over again, without resolution.

Rev On The Red Line: This song, a minor hit, closes the original album with an ode to the narrator’s faithful relationship with his car. Ironically enough, in light of the themes of the album as a whole, the singer talks about how he plays head games with other races by throwing races to get the stakes up before showing his full driving skills and winning money and the momentary affection of car-racing groupies, while dealing with the hostility of the law and the need to pay corrupt judges to keep one’s license, all sung with a false lack of concern.

Bonus Track: Zaila: This song, a somewhat repetitive song that speaks of the narrator’s desire to know the titular young woman better, makes for a decent bonus track, but it is pretty clear why this piece of mid-tempo album filler didn’t make the album. It is a good bonus track but not worth releasing as a single and certainly marginal for being on an album in the first place.

Although previous Foreigner albums have shown at least some focus on suspicion and a lack of trust, this particular album makes that the unifying theme of its material. Whether the band is dealing with a potentially unfaithful lover, passive-aggressively warning a partner that the relationship is going south, trying to keep a relationship alive on the road by talking on the telephone despite fears and insecurities, or is singing about a street racer who likes to trick and deceive other racers in order to swindle them out of large amounts of money, this album is truly deeply about head games and the way that they are played or felt in different aspects of life. As a concept album and song cycle there are definitely some stronger tracks and some weaker ones, but it is a solid and worthwhile album nonetheless, for all of its its tensions.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/09/02/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-foreigner/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/09/25/album-review-foreigner/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/10/08/album-review-double-vision/

[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/im-a-fool-to-do-your-dirty-work/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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5 Responses to Album Review: Head Games

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