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Wild Billy Childish & CTMF
Brand New Cage Josh Gray , October 9th, 2017 12:56

Wild Billy Childish tries once again to recapture the spirit of 77 with CTMF, and succeeds for the fifth time in a row.

I’m sorely tempted to log into my iTunes and change the years displayed on all of my CTMF albums to 1977. Not because the entire project is Wild Billy Childish’s resurrection of the band he planned (but never quite managed) to form then, but because they really do feel like 40th anniversary re-releases of lost punk classics. So what if there’s the occasional reference to Kylie Minogue or Nick Cave lodged in there? Each of their LPs since All Our Forts Are With You could slide through a wormhole and slouch next to Damned Damned Damned and Spiral Scratch without raising a studded eyebrow.

All Childish’s other projects, from Thee Headcoats to The Spartan Dreggs, have traded in a sort of self-aware retroism; only CTMF seems like a conscious attempt by the polymath to retroactively insert himself into the punk scene in which he formed the Pop Rivets. Brand New Cage’s artwork is emblematic of this. A young clean shaven Childish stares out at the listener, covered in ash-filled cuts and radiating an intensity that burns across 40 years.

Much like its creator, Brand New Cage has the snotty charm and frayed aggression of another time. “In 2017 the music scene is looking lean,” Childish spits on the horn-driven ‘The Punk Was In Me (And It Had To Come Out)’, an album manifesto with self-awareness to rival The Fall at their most meta. The Kinks and the Buzzcocks loom large (as they always do in Childish’s little universe) over full-throttle rockers ‘Are You Better Than Me?’ and ‘Something’s Missing’, while album highlight ‘What About Brian?’ sees Childish semi-comically ranting at the blue plaque by Dartford Station that commemorates the meeting of Keith and Mick as 'the moment The Rolling Stones formed', ignoring all the work Brian Johnson put into bringing the band into being. 

Despite his talent for cocking a musical snook, an entire record full of Wild Billy Childish tracks tends to wear you down by the end, and so CTMF's continuing practice of including a couple of songs penned and sung by bassist Nurse Julie on each record is as welcome as ever. 'It's All Gone Wrong' and 'Bullet Proof' might be cut from the same scratchy cloth as Childish's songs, but the presence of her Kim Deal-ish drawl cleanses the palette and readies the listener for more of the same. And, when it comes to Wild Billy Childish, 'the same' is really the only option that's been on the menu since 1977. But by reliving the same year over and over again for four decades, Childish has managed to make one of the finest albums of 1977. It's just arrived a little late is all.