Childs’ fifth album finds the ex-Gorky’s man falling short of his best.
Jude Rogers 2009
At the grand old age of 34, Euros Childs has been Britain’s prince of peculiar, psychedelic music for nearly two decades.
He first appeared in 1992 when his group, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, released Patio, a collection of songs about peanut dispensers and talking sheep that John Cale called his favourite-ever album. They received airplay, but commercial success didn't last long – perhaps fitting for a band citing avant-garde artists like Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers as influences. They broke up in 2006, leaving several great LPs behind and their frontman to pedal his canoe alone.
Son of Euro Child is Childs’ fifth solo album in three years, which suggests he has been pedalling furiously. On the evidence of the songs here, however, it seems that the boy has simply forgotten to edit himself. He is in silly mode – not a new development for an artist who’s always privileged absurdity, but an unwelcome one for a man always better at tenderness, as proved by his lovely last album, 2008's Cheer Gone.
Even more upsettingly, many songs here start well before descending into depressingly rudimentary synthesiser riffs. S***hausen begins like a Radiophonic Workshop take on Stockhausen's minimalism but turns into an embarrassing burst of Chas & Dave cheesiness. Look at My Boots plays like a substandard piece of Syd Barrett juvenilia about the concept of coolness, ending with a joke about a fridge which buckles with cliché. The sprightly Like This? Then Try This (“lose some weight / hit the shops / discover a brand-new you”) and the Stereolab-inspired liveliness of Carrboro are better, but the prevailing atmosphere is one of forced jollity, made by someone profoundly miserable – especially on the closing Mother/Kitchen, where Childs rails spitefully against a singer-songwriter’s optimism, and bends his delicate voice into progressively ugly shapes.
This state of affairs is particularly depressing in 2009, when wonky synthesiser music is the talk of the chart-fuelled town, and artists like Max Tundra and Simon Bookish are celebrated by critics. If only Childs could take his time, hone his talent, and remember how good he really is: he could make music to truly match the moment he was made for.