Which isn’t the only reason why I bought it. I bought it partly because Teenage Fanclub’s Shadows was a huge highlight of last year, this project intrigued me from first hearing, and well yes because it was cheap.
With Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci’s Euros Childs’ paths crossing on more than one occasion over the years, a more substantial coming-together than the occasional guesting on each others’ work was probably always going to happen. And in fitting fashion, the end result isn’t so much a collection of painstakingly-crafted and produced soul searching balladry, as a strange parallel 1970s universe where a young Euros seemingly pops round to the Blake’s house to ask Norman’s mum if he can come out to play for a bit and make an album.
I wasn’t 100% sure what I was going to get with this album, and after several playthroughs I’m still not sure. It’s not unfair to say that the gentle pub-rock stylings similar to the recently late Gerry Rafferty of opener Wich is Wich (seemingly about that much-ignored of pop subjects, the Sexy Witch) has a tendency to put the listener in a state of “eh?” that continues through the rest of this collaborative debut whether or not the song is especially mad or not. It isn’t usually “not”, however – once each energetic slice of psychedelic pop is over, there’s another one ready to immediately take its place, with occasional dreamy, Byrdsey respite provided by Norman as we all catch our breath, along with a delightful English Lady, echoing Paul McCartney at his whimsical piano-based best.
Lunatic highlights are plenty; special mention though has to go to the wonderfully odd Bread, with Sparksian falsetto reminding us how ace baked goods are with the refrain “Hats off to those who make bread” and a portentious mid-section that warns of what life would be like if we didn’t have any. Quite.
And in the midst of all this collection of songs of lengths ranging between one and a half to three and a bit minutes, we have Cave Dance, a ten-and-three-quarter psychedelic surf-pop epic that goes a bit spacey in the middle very suddenly and slightly proggy, where it drifts around for a while before ending without much of a conclusion, but that just adds to the charm of it. And just before the very sweet closure of Never Alone we have I’ll Make Her My Best Friend, something that evokes memories of the scene that first bore Teenage Fanclub and their peers (BMX Bandit drummer Stuart Kidd ably assisting).
So all in all it’s a record steeped in silliness, charm and a good heart. Hopefully more hi-jinks will ensue from this pairing. It’s becoming more commonplace for friends in established musical entities to get together for whatever length of time in order to make something together (the Gutter Twins and Fistful of Mercy spring most immediately to mind), and not only is it nice to see these guys get together for the sake of having fun, it’s all the better for having their finely-crafted goofing-off shared with the rest of us.