Salutes rock’s past with a carefree spirit and its head in the clouds.
Alix Buscovic 2011-01-20
Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue was an inspired partnership; Ozzy Osbourne and Miss Piggy, on the other hand, a complete monstrosity. Musical collaboration isn’t always the wisest of ideas, then – even if, as an ageing rocker, you tend to be surrounded by porcine Muppets every day. But the union of Norman Blake and Euros Childs was never going to be much of a risk. As respective frontmen of Scottish indie legends Teenage Fanclub and missed Welsh psych popstrels Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, their oeuvres and fanbases broadly overlap. They’ve also toured together, and Blake even appeared on Gorky’s seventh album, How I Long to Feel That Summer in My Heart.
Recording that album, Childs felt like Blake was "part of the band". And, in a sense, that’s what he is here – a co-writer and performer, yes, but on a project fronted by Childs, who supplies most of the lead vocals and takes sole credit for five songs. Jonny (a name not, sadly, chosen to get people to quote from The Shining every time they’re introduced, but suggested by the photo that became the album cover) are clearly stamped with the hallmarks of Gorky’s. They’re light hearted, with a ready desire to run off into the kaleidoscopic gardens of the quirky.
Until now, it would be hard to imagine Blake, a man who veritably sweats golden melodies, penning a Jonathan Richman-like piano ditty about granary deprivation and delight. Odd though the track seems on paper, Bread is strangely charming, its shimmering yet simple harmonies offsetting the eccentric lyrics. On Cave Dance, though, the eccentricities go way too far, and what begins like a Stone Age-set Agadoo turns into a one-chord prog noodle soup.
But excesses are reined in everywhere else. Whether Jonny are imagining 70s game show themes (frenzied opener Wich is Wich), offering up a brew of mellow Byrds and Buffalo Springfield (The Goodnight), sweeping you up in swirling Doors keyboards (the instantly addictive Candyfloss) or doffing a cap to Blake’s day job (the slow burning Circling the Sun), their time-travelling and genre hopping is carefully measured, as playful as a bundle of kittens and seemingly effortless.
Childs and Blake have created a record of outstanding songcraft, which salutes rock’s past with a carefree spirit and its head in the clouds. Go Jonny, go, go go.