Music

Jonny: Jonny

Norman Blake from Teenage Fanclub and Euros Childs from Gorky's Zygotic Mynci's lighten up -- a bit. Expect songs about love, and also bread and witches.


Jonny

Jonny

Label: Merge
US Release Date: 2011-04-12
UK Release Date: 2011-01-31
Amazon
iTunes

Norman Blake has always been the most overtly clever of Teenage Fanclub's three songwriters. Most everything the Scottish indie-pop band does is pretty sharp, but it's Blake who has penned such memorable titles as "Alcoholiday" and "Neil Jung", and backed them with good tunes, too. So it was a bit exciting to learn about Jonny, the band. Jonny is Blake's collaboration with Euros Childs, ex-front man of the long-running, now-defunct Welsh psych-rock outfit Gorky's Zygotic Mynci. Teenage Fanclub's last few albums have largely abandoned the band's playful, tongue-in-cheek side, so Jonny sounded like an opportunity for Blake to cut loose a bit. At the very least, it promised an intriguing and possibly dynamic mixture of two distinct musical personalities.

To an extent, Jonny does reveal a looser, more carefree Blake. You don't have to look past the opening track, "Wich is Wich", and its refrain of "Which witch is which?". Musically, it's a prancing tribute to early Roxy Music, complete with analog synth solo. Lyrically, homophones have never been so much fun. The album's best track, "Waiting Round For You", is a fun, blues-based rocker that recalls Wilco via Rubber Soul-era Beatles. The Queen-like cabaret number "Bread" is about, well, bread. Blake and Childs have never been shy about flaunting their influences. Really, that's the overall impression you get from Jonny -- the two men going through each others' record collections, figuring out what they have in common and introducing each other to new stuff.

At least as far as the resulting album is concerned, Blake is clearly the director of proceedings. When you consider Blake is 10 years Childs' senior and the two met when Gorky's Zygotic Mynci opened for Teenage Fanclub, this arrangement makes sense. Also, Jonny's rhythm section is made up Teenage Fanclub associates Dave McGowan and Stuart Kidd, who, like Blake, played in the Scottish band BMX Bandits. Put all this together, and you have more of Blake's trademark song-craft and harmonies than you do Childs' more far-out eccentricities. Only on "English Lady", a mellow, waltz-time number, and highlight "Candyfloss", with a psychedelic, swirling-organ verse leading to the rich, slightly melancholy chorus, do the two styles really coalesce. The truly Childs-stamped compositions are limited to the aforementioned "Bread", the wonderfully demented acid rock "Goldmine", and "Cave Dance". The latter song overreaches for silliness and winds up sounding like kids band the Wiggles taking a piss during sound check.

That leaves several tracks that really could have come from the last couple Teenage Fanclub albums, though they would have been the poppiest songs on them. Where you stand on those albums, and the extent of your preference for Childs, will probably determine your ultimate feelings about Jonny. Mostly mid-tempo, easy-flowing numbers like "You Was Me", "Circling the Sun", or country-western flavored "I'll Make Her My Best Friend" are really quite good. They're well-crafted, pleasant and enjoyable. Blake's style and harmonies are so distinct here, though, that the efforts seem less than collaborative. If Jonny has a disappointing side, it's in this relative lack of dynamics. It could just be that Blake is getting older and is simply too mature to pretend, but the sound could have done with a good layer of dirt.

You could argue, though, that Blake's relative conservatism actually keeps Jonny sounding like a good, proper album rather than a throwaway self-indulgence. With most of the 13 songs clocking in under three minutes, Blake and Childs don't want to give you time to over-think things. And that's good, because overall, Jonny finds that fine like between whimsy and substance, and walks it pretty well. Neil Jung, wherever he is, would probably approve.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

9
Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.