Album of the Week: Childhood | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Album of the Week: Childhood

Universal High Out Today via Marathon Artists

Jul 21, 2017 Bookmark and Share

Find It At: AMAZON

The state of U.K. indie in the early 2010s had an atmosphere of light revolution. The fallout from the 2006 wave of Arctic Monkeys-inspired bands had cleared and a new dawn had arrived for the alternative youth of the U.K. Bands like Superfood, Gengahr, JAWS and, notably, Childhood were uprooting themselves from their Brit-Rock heritage and pinching influences from grunge, psych-pop, and soul. Bands of this ilk went through the debut album cycle over the last three years which pretty takes us up to the today and the second album release of Brixton's Childhood.

Looking at the scene now, Superfood have a follow-up album in the oven, JAWS are steadily plugging away, and who knows if we'll ever get a sequel to Gengahr's almost perfect debut album, while bands like The Amazons and Royal Blood are entrenching themselves is riff-revivalism. What makes me hopeful for the future of U.K. guitar-music are these indie-bands, groups who aren't timidly employing an "if it ain't broke" mentality to their second albums. Childhood travelled to the United States for Universal High to surround themselves in influences and environments that better informed the soul-funk direction they've taken their hazy indie-pop sound.

Childhood's entry into the same club that Toro Y Moi, Twin Shadow, and Blood Orange frequent isn't a totally left-field move. Their first album Lacuna ran thick with the essence of Talking Heads and David Bowie-artists that spent renowned portions of their careers mastering the elements of funk and soul. The difference here being that Ben Romans-Hopcraft, Childhood's singer, wanted to blend the source material with his own, with the work of his indie contemporaries. And this synthesis is pretty much the lifeblood of Universal High.

The album, though recorded in Atlanta, Georgia and featuring the sunkissed tones of California, is actually about Romans-Hopcraft's London experience. A track like "Nothing Ever Seems Right," despite its David Byrne speak-singing vocal pattern, feels wry and present in its Britishness. Whereas "California Light," for its untethered groove and Sam Cooke twisted vocal delivery, could also easily be about escaping to the golden-shores of the West Coast. The album leaves ambiguity in its romantic lyricism with purpose, I believe, to give the listener a safe space to relate, regardless of their location.

A great deal of Childhood's shift to more funk songwriting as opposed to Australian-psych (it wouldn't be unfair to say that a great deal of Lacuna ran parallel to Tame Impala's work) can be attributed to the production staff. The album was produced in the most part by Ben H Allen III of Gnarls Barkley, Deerhunter, and Animal Collective fame. From those names alone you can tell that Allen is a platinum-grade producer when it comes to taking lauded sounds from pop history and using an adventurous band to filter them into something fresh yet familiar-listen to "Universal High" and see if you can detach it from your conscious understanding of The Beatles.

Universal High is not perfect. It's grooves are occasionally blunted by an unwavering prioritising of melody but it definitely sets a standard for British indie to push its horizons further beyond comfort-zones and trend. Now let's see the same from Gengahr, please.

Read our review of Universal High.

Read our 2013 Pleased to Meet You interview with Childhood.


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