If I was being polemical there’s a case to be made to hold Childish’s records up against an increasingly nervous, over-qualified and timid age.
The beauty of Childish’s vision is one that enervates and surprises in equal measure. It’s always a blast of fresh air to stick one of his records on, however hoary the riffs or precocious the EJ Thrubb-style poetry lines (“wreathèd”, Billy? “Wreathèd”? And what about, “The sun-made harvest of fruit and wine”? Or, “And darkness engulfed his eyes”?)…. Still, the lad puts a smile on your face because he dares to dream. No-one else could approach a record with the intent to create odes to the glories of Britain’s naval history, the siege of Troy, D-Day and the SAS alongside documenting the various social and cultural divisions in the UK without ANY sense of irony or qualifications in their message. And why should there be irony? There is a lot to be learned from Billy Childish - the story of Bagnold or the nod to Turner’s masterpiece for instance, even if it sometimes sounds like a schoolboy essay. Appreciating this stuff doesn’t make you “fascist” or Right Wing. If I was being polemical there’s a case to be made to hold Childish’s records up against an increasingly nervous, over-qualified and timid age.
At times though it can seem as quaint as a Baby Austin: Towerblock mixes 60s lyrics with a traditional if not Blimpish take on the modern urban landscape “A short-haired Rapunzel/ living cheek to jowl with the Polish poor”. But how much is imaginary or tongue in cheek is irrelevant. As ever it’s the conviction in the music that wins you over. Without wishing to get all Gravesean on your collective ass (sic), you have to be a poet bloody sure of the love of your Muse to offer up such libations. And the fact that the songs (The Fighting Tameraire, Our Strange Power of Speech, Are You a Wally?) are such inspiring blasts of noise. The groove of Intertidal Marshland starts to resemble a Fall track and The Charcoal Burners Lament is a song full of charm and wit. Chopped Up Book of Myself and Are You A Wally are classic paranoid rants, playing the same chirpy game as Wreckless Eric.
English Music indeed. In fact, if we’re not careful Peter Ackroyd will be writing of Childish between sinking pints.