- by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date: Label:
I still remember repeatedly listening to the gorgeous ‘Hush the Warmth’ by Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci sometime in the 1990’s, the track appearing on a free NME CD. Beloved of John Cale, the Welsh eccentrics successfully combined their love of melodic pop, melancholic folk and psychedelia on the likes of Barafundle, Gorky 5 and Spanish Dance Troupe.
The band split in 2006 yet Euros Childs has remained relentlessly prolific ever-since; releasing 13 studio albums and even starting his own label, the seasonally appropriate National Elf. Shockingly, the recently released House Arrest LP is actually the first solo album of his I’ve heard. So with the new album fresh in my mind I head down to Wharf Chambers to do some serious catching up.
Before this we’re introduced to the immensely talented Ed Dowie. An unassuming, funny and perhaps slightly nervous figure, Dowie sits next to a minimal keyboard and laptop setup. He opens with ‘Verbarhemiopia’. Based on a potentially fictitious condition, it’s a disarmingly beautiful piece of songwriting. Dowie’s vocals floating over the gentle synth motif as the strange words create a stunning, otherworldly soundscape. Layering sounds, the overall effect see’s Dowie become something of a one-man choir.
The lyrical themes remain pleasingly geeky throughout. There’s a song about bicarbonate of soda and something called ‘Red or Grey’ that’s “sort of about squirrels”. The music itself is mesmerising, much of it pulled from his recently released debut LP The Uncle Sold. Reaching into his pocket Dowie pulls out a batch of business cards, laughing as he reminds us that he’s very much available. With shows as great as this he’ll have to get more printed.
While Gorky’s finest moments were frequently melancholic, there’s nothing remotely sad, wistful or reflective to be heard as Euros Childs bursts into the gloriously silly ‘(Do the) Chicken in the Jungle’. The mood is one of joyful surrealism with jaunty keyboard melodies replacing the folky instrumentation of old.
There’s a few different synths on stage, apparently Childs has found a number of them in charity shops and even skips. He’s controlling the drum machine through an app on his phone. Joined on stage by multi-instrumentalist Rosie Smith, Childs switches between various synths throughout the night as she provides drums, guitar and extra keyboard accompaniment.
You just can’t imagine Euros ever suffering from writers block, his songs exploring any number of bizarre and wonderful themes. ‘Crystal & Misty’ starts in an all you can eat restaurant before descending into cannibalism while ‘Happy Coma’ puts a darkly humorous tale to a particularly catchy and brilliantly uplifting tune.
Childs explanations and pre-song ramblings make the set all the more entertaining. At one point he explains, at length, how the next song is about a very difficult break up. It’s impossible not to smile when he finally breaks into the odd-pop of ‘My Colander’. Possibly the only love song aimed at a kitchen utensil.
‘Godalming’ starts with a story about his brother moving into a house next door to Mike Rutherford from Mike & the Mechanics in the 1980’s. After playing the song he confesses that it’s all made up. His dad, he reassures us, did visit there once though.
‘Henry and Matilda Supermarketsuper’ is sung predominantly in Childs native Welsh and is apparently about life, death, supermarkets and whales in Spain. The unexpectedly intense ‘Dust’ feels like an exorcism for OCD while ‘Pick it Up’ is far too pretty for a song about picking up dog poo.
‘Turning Strange’ is rather gorgeous while a ramshackle cover of the Auf Wiedersehen, Pet theme tune provides the night’s big sing along. He says he can’t quite remember the chords and needs to get the words up on his phone but that doesn’t stop the whole room chiming in with the chorus. Full of life and unashamedly fun, it’s the kind of performance that reminds you not to take things too seriously.
The melodies are contagiously irresistible throughout, Childs proving beyond a doubt that he’s one of pop’s great eccentrics. With a whole new batch of songs knocking around my head, I leave Wharf Chambers intent on hearing some more of that impressively sprawling back-catalogue. Now, that really is living alright.