Defiant punk rock from Chatham’s answer to Mark E Smith. Childish has lost none of his urgency or vibrancy 3000 albums in (roughly) and as the title suggests SQ1 is no musical departure for this gem of the south; Childish and his latest group start at square one again and find originality in the repetition of new beginnings. CTMF wrestle songs from the moment with abandon and grace, while their zen punk frontman weaves Koans of brutally honest poetry in his classic straight edge delivery.
SQ1 kicks off with a humorous and honest ode to some celebrity fans of Mr Childish: ‘A Song For Kylie Minogue’: Hammond organ stabs, snarling guitar and shouts of “I just don’t know!” and “Here’s a song for that strange boy Beck, the strangest one that I’ve met yet…” It’s a scream of a single that’s a middle finger to celebrity worship and the mainstream whilst retaining a charming warmth and humanity. Childish just doesn’t care for the trappings, rules and expected behaviour of the corporate music world.
The title track extols the virtues of simplicity in music verses bloated excess: “The second album’s never as good, they forgot square one,” it’s a fittingly simple song with unaffected sha la la la la backing vocals and no frills; in fact the whole album is a product of your DIY punk rock staples; guitar, bass, drums and vocals mixed with a fearless inventiveness and dedication to the cause and the moment. Okay, maybe the occasional organ makes an appearance, both mouth and Hammond, but the whole album has minimal flab. Each idea, motif and cadence of delivery therefore has greater impact. The constraints of the form allow for little dilution and therefore each song packs an almighty punch.
Working to a strict ethic has no adverse affect on accessibility and these charming, though often raucous and visceral, songs have a melodic core that is undeniable. Julie Hamper takes the vocal lead for ‘Turn & Run’ , surely a future single, and my three year old was singing along on the first listen. Kids don’t lie.
The punk cause and principles and their perceived betrayal is also a running theme here particularly on ‘CTMF’ and ‘A Glimpse of Another Time’; “…we ain’t a garage band we were formed in a shed, and the reason we don’t sound like The Smiths is because we wanted to sound like this…SOUND LIKE THIS!” Childish tells us in the former, and thank goodness they do too.
Containing kinetic, tight but not over-polished songs of searingly honest confessions, call to arms subversion of commercial music and self-reflection this album manages the rare feat of being both inspiring and high quality from start to finish whilst retaining an almost amateurish charm. Childish pulls off English eccentricity and punk pastiche without sounding like a version of anyone but CTMF. Sure there’s some Kinks and some Pistols in there if you like but being at square one means there’s no one to ape, just the moment and one man and his band doing it themselves on their own terms, wonderfully.
Twelve outsider pop art gems later and you’re left knowing this is the real deal: a living legend, an underground artist, poet and family man who we should cherish dearly and celebrate as he releases his latest debut album.
Review by Sean Daly