By the power vested in Jonny, two of the United Kingdom’s finest have come together to unleash their genre-bending 13-track album unto the world. The project of Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake and Euros Childs of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Jonny is the indie lover’s supergroup, and its debut is nothing short of a masterpiece.
At first glance, Jonny sounds like a jammy garage band playing a polished show for the neighborhood hipsters, but as the self-titled album progresses, the group’s artistry shines through. The harmonies resemble a Crosby, Stills And Nash arrangement, often expanding to three rather than two parts, while also sounding a bit like the Fratellis—a group no doubt influenced by Blake and Childs’ former bands. The vocals are relaxed but engaged, seamlessly changing their tone between carefree to passionate from track to track. It’s no surprise that Blake’s and Childs’ voices blend so well together after Blake contributed vocals to Gorky’s while the former bands toured together. What’s surprising is that they haven’t joined forces sooner.
Teenage Fanclub’s Dave McGowan adds bass lines to Jonny, and former BMX Bandit Stuart Kidd sits behind the drum set to complete the quartet. Together the four have managed to make modern music that would feel at home on the top 40 radio of the 1960s. Utilizing keyboard settings that fluctuate between an acoustic grand and an organ, as well as lo-fi guitar pedals and a mostly short-form style of songwriting, Jonny’s inspirations are clear while still maintaining a new sound. This is most apparent on “Candyfloss,” a psych-pop gem that could be mistaken as a Zombies tune or a work by Donovan. “Waiting Round For You,” the follow-up track, moves in the same direction with a guitar solo reminiscent of the Beatles and chord progressions that are characteristic of early mod music.
The biggest surprise on Jonny appears on track 10, “Cave Dance,” a song that spills over the 10-minute mark and seems to have some sort of accompanying dance that we’re encouraged to perform. It can be broken down to three movements, the first having a more dance-y feel and the proceeding two being slower and more repetitive. But even at the repetitive sections, Jonny has found ways to keep it compelling. You’ll find yourself trying to predict when the sound will change and will likely be surprised by a new melodic line here or a different use of percussion there.
Though dominated by sounds of yesteryear, Jonny is fresh with overtones of baroque pop and indie folk that are flexible and playful. Blake and Childs have no need to prove why they’re considered some of the U.K.’s best songwriters and musicians, but Jonny does just that.