Review : Jonny - Jonny
PitchforkJonny is Norman Blake and Euros Childs, two 90s indie rock lifers with very different songwriting styles. Childs, whose psychedelic outfit, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, called it quits five years ago, has continued to churn out similarly charming, distinctly unpredictable pop songs under his own name since. He's your wild card. Blake, whose vocal harmonies and melodic skillset you may have heard by way of his work in British band Teenage Fanclub, has been equally active over the years, though rarely on his own. He's a glue guy. Together they form what can (in certain circles) be loosely termed as a supergroup. But Jonny, their first full-length as a duo, doesn't approach that construct with much of a straight face. Although they've played and recorded together in the past, here they sound as though they're still finding out how to best combine their quirks.
Take for instance pub-rocking opener "Wich is Wich", a sub-two-minute boogie that functions more as curio than attention-grabbing salvo. While the groove is sturdy, its relatively short length doesn't allow it to leave much of a dent at all. It feels instead like a song that never quite became a song. While you'll find equally, confusingly short scraps on the tail end of Jonny (see: the country shuffle of "I'll Make Her My Best Friend"), there's enough great songwriting at play here to make that kind of wham-bam-on-to-the-next approach all the more frustrating. On tape they can be just as good as they are on paper. The burble and harmonies of "Candyfloss" is proof of that. Merge, their label home, has hailed their union as "the advent of an irresistibly infectious new strain of psychedelic pop." But Jonny retains the feel of old, familiar parts being slapped together to form something old and familiar. There's a good reason why these two have followings on their own.
Euros Childs' stamp on these songs is particularly strong, his Welsh-accented vocal tics and corkscrewing organ flourishes much more obtrusive in the mix than Blake's far more palatable contributions. In fact, the latter's long-developed ear for vocal harmonies is responsible for not only smoothing a lot of Jonny's edges, but also corralling his bandmate for some genuinely beautiful vocal performances. It's not difficult to discern who penned what throughout, but like the aforementioned "Candyfloss" (also, "English Lady" and "Circling the Sun" and "The Goodnight" and "Never Alone" and so on), Blake's gilded harmony arrangements lend a much-needed constant to an affair that sheds its skin from track to track. Aside from two very melodically inclined minds joining forces, what spurs Jonny to succeed in its own strange way is the audible heart and enthusiasm with which they try everything here. Sandwiched between what sound to be two more experiments in need of more time, "Cave Dance" is an experiment that drones on for 11 minutes. Eleven. From red-blooded rock circus to synth dream to Fleetwood Mac-indebted krautrock coda, it goes on and on and on. They're having so much fun....full text
GuardianGenius is not needed to work out that the pairing of Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake and Euros Childs, formerly of Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, is unlikely to result in an album of esoteric electronica. So it proves: Jonny is a good-natured, light-hearted collection of bubblegum pop, with one foot in the garage. Bubblegum is the key word: the sweet streak that runs through these songs, predominantly written by Childs, is a mile wide. The title of the single Candyfloss sums up the album: sugary and lightweight. But the pair harmonise beautifully, the melodies are glorious, with just enough of the melancholy that marks both their best work, and it's immensely likable: Childs and Blake make a charming couple. Amid the throwaways are diamonds, too – Blake's Circling the Sun is the kind of effortless wonder that takes years of effort to perfect. The one misstep is Cave Dance, which is a couple of minutes of song and eight minutes of coda, the point at which the joke ceases be shared with the audience....full text
ContactmusicA Celtic partnership the likes of this hasn't been heard of since Van Morrison (Yes I know he's not Scottish) dueted with Tom Jones. Two giants of music from Scotland and Wales collaborating on a new project that will usher in "The advent of an irresistibly infectious new strain of psychedelic pop". Pairing up founding members from two very influential bands of the nineties sounds like a two headed super group that will have fans and record bosses salivating with unhealthy excitement.
Norman Blake's Teenage Fanclub have been delighting audiences and critics alike for two decades. With 9 studio albums behind them, including the very successful Grand Prix and Songs From Northern Britain, as well as a host of fellow musicians who have either been influenced by them or simply admired their songs, Teenage Fanclub are held in very high regard. Euros Child's Gorky's Zygotic Mynci may not have had quite the same commercial success but they were nevertheless influential in their own right and they too had their fair share of champions, John Peel among them.
So from two people who have either been someone's idea of "The World's second best band" (Noel Gallagher on TFC) or produced their favourite album (John Cale on Gorky's) comes their collaborative eponymous debut, Jonny. The prospect is mouth watering, the anticipation palpable, the results.......mixed. I came at this album with high expectations, maybe too high as it turns out. The songwriting skills are still evident, the use of lovely gentle harmonies and clever vocal nuances still abound but the overall experience is tarnished by some over indulgence as well as some, quite frankly, bad songs.
Opening with 'Wich Is Wich'..........."Has she got a green nose? Well, I suppose. And at the cauldron she's got it going on" Jonny are clearly in a somewhat playful mood. You can throw in all sorts of words here, such as kitsch, pastiche or retro, to make the it sound better but that won't change the fact that the song could be Status Quo. You can imagine the long haired lads on Top Of The Pops doing the only dance acceptable to the male populus of the 70's: elbows out, thumbs clasped around jean belt loops and alternately drop each shoulder whilst keeping your feet firmly routed to the spot. You could even be mistaken for thinking you may have heard it before in an old Scooby cartoon....full text
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