Album Review: Wild Billy childish & CTMF – where the wild purple iris grows

CTMF – ‘Some say this stands for Copyright Termination Front, others claim it is simply short form for Clarity Through Fuzz’. Who knows but I do know that Billy Childish thought of the band name way back in the days of punk and only 36 years later did it see the light of day. Billy Childish himself has lived through many incarnations himself, having released 3 albums just last year as the William Loveday Intention, not to mention the prolific work he has done both as a solo artist and as a member of invented bands Thee Headcoats, The Buff Medways and Thee Mighty Caesars to name but a few. Couple that with his extensive writings, artwork, films and photography and you start to wonder how this man had the time to invent the hipster movement (although he’d probably hate that).

Whatever it stands for, the band have released 8 albums since 2013 and this new one is very much in keeping with his ethic for punk garage immediacy and tub thumping rockabilly inspired Link Wray rawness. Take “Pluma Dorada”, an instrumental in the style of “Rumble” which has a flick knife slashed seat vibe, complete with trumpet fanfares. The title song concerns itself with the fens in the south East of the UK where ‘the eel wiggles between your toes’ and ‘the sky erupts into a thousand crows’. Childish was born and grew up in the Medway area of Kent and most of his cultural references come from the South Eastern corner of England, and from experiences in his life. Take “She Was Wearing Tangerine” for example, which tells the story of a patient he met when he ‘worked at the hospital on the mental ward’. There’s a rollicking harmonica driven cover of Dylan’s “Ballad Of Hollis Brown”, along with blues standard “The Train Kept A Rollin'”, which features fuzzed out amp buzz guitar and breakneck snare. Elsewhere we have reworked versions of earlier tunes like “Come Into My Life”, a real garage classic, and “The Same Tree”, which ends the album, previously performed by The Headcoats, and once again a frenetic garage stomper with a wild harmonica break.

I think what I like most about this, as with many other recordings by Billy Childish is its immediacy, its authentic straight ahead rock ‘n’ roll basic back beat coupled with witty, often wildly inventive lyrics, whilst still retaining a fresh faced pop sensibility, albeit one that sits at the back of the bus sneering and spitting. It owes so much to the rock ‘n’ roll inspired British beat boom of the early 60’s, like The Hamburg Beatles, and yet is very much a child of the restless punk period of political unrest and No New York inspired nihilism. It’s a perfect cross of elements fronted by the eccentric lone figure of Mr Billy Childish, with his unique style, looking on the front cover of this album like Wyatt Earp, and the outlaw gunslinger image suits him down to the ground.

If you are already aware of his work then you know what you’re getting into here and you won’t be disappointed. If you haven’t come across him before and don’t know where to start there’s no better place. Just strap yourself in to a Triumph Norton, don your piss-pot helmet and leather jacket and enjoy the ride.

Where The Wild Purple Iris Grows is out now on vinyl and CD via Damaged Goods Records
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Review by Andrew Wood

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