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Jonny Iain Moffat , March 25th, 2011 14:20

Even amidst the copious retro-fetishism of the Britpop era, were there ever a pair of indie circuit regulars as thrillingly unhinged from time and space as our protagonists here? After all, given his precocious youthfulness and cultural and geographical remoteness, as king Mynci of the Gorky's gang, Euros Childs apparently absorbed an astounding surfeit of psychedelia and folk via morphic resonance. Norman Blake's CV, meanwhile, radiates no end of decidedly unScottish sunshine that suggests his west coast roots are a lot more westerly than they really are. How on earth are these two going to cope with the possibility that this collaboration might produce something – ulp! – fashionable?

You heard. It seems slightly bizarre to even be thinking it, but, in these post-Mumford'n'Marling times, there's clearly an appetite for a more ageless approach among that increasingly vocal section of the populace for whom 'Price Tag' is nothing more than reheated Thatcherism. Lily Allen's decision to make a TV series about how she wants to be out of the limelight feels perverse at best, and “they all sound the bloody same!” is an indication of Autotune fatigue rather than being someone's dad. Needless to say, Jonny, as Childs and Blake have somewhat prosaically called themselves, are well placed to deliver: this self-titled affair is craftsmanly, it's campfirey and, as befits two men more than accustomed to their perennial bridesmaid status, it actually couldn't give much of a damn how it's received.

Which is, predictably, sweet and rare, and, more excitingly, frees them up in a slightly unexpected succession of ways. 'Waiting Around For You', for example, is a rather boshingly slapdash hoedown (though most assuredly not bosh) but bristles with so much bonhomie that one would need a full house of curmudgeon cards to prove entirely resistant, Childs' piano work seems to have leapt exponentially in cuddly wisdom on 'Circling The Sun' (great Blake vocal!) and 'Never Alone' and – alright, so this was only to be expected – the harmonies on the terrific double-whammy of 'I Want To Be Around You' and 'I'll Make Her My Best Friend' are tremulously gossamer and a winning combination of yearning and yee-ha, respectively. Perhaps better still is 'Bread'; a paean to the bakers of the world, with an almost-spoken breakdown that recalls Gorkys' own 'Lucy's Hamper', that – and you can imagine what a treat it is to be able to type this – almost wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Victoria Wood show.

I'd like to be able to say that about more tracks in general, of course, but, to be absolutely honest, I can't even say it about everything here. For, while the personnel here have more than earned their share of fond leeway, there are certainly times when they seem to have forgotten that the fact they're clearly having a ball doesn't mean that the listener won't have to make allowances. For starters, for such a short album to begin with a song that's been part of Euros' live set for several years now, the admittedly fine 'Wich Is Wich', isn't the most creatively inspired of manoeuvres, and there are points – 'English Lady' especially is guilty of this – where the overall niceness begins to cloy; there's been tons of ace twee in recent years too, so there's no excuse for old hands botching it like this.

Worst of all, while most of the tracks don't even come close to outstaying their welcome, 'Cave Dance' shows up two-thirds of the way through and threatens to derail the whole enterprise: for the first two minutes, it's a boundingly twisty and sashaying-bassed thumpy nugget that fizzes tremendously before deciding that it'd in fact be better off as an eight-minute two-keyboard-chord wonder made improbably worse by an excess of what we can only call fannying about on My First Mellotron. Mind you, considering that they really are just doing what they do and if anyone else likes it it's a bonus, at least there's a cracker of a mini-album nestled in here, even if the Teenage stalwart and Mr Childs have ended up producing something that's a lot less for-The-Kids than the concept originally suggested...