Under Review: Jonny – Jonny

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I guess the trend of pairing established musicians together for new projects isn’t a mere trend after all. And while some of the bigger artists who previously dabbled in a supergroup have retreated to their proper bands, the more understated (and perhaps underrated) musicians are now taking their turn. Bearing the simple moniker of Jonny, this new union is based around Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub/BMX Bandits) and Euros Childs (Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci), two songwriters who have a passionate fixation on the melodic pop of the pre-Beatles ‘60s. Blake and Childs’ debut album as Jonny, also called Jonny, features a wealth of rather brief excursions into a laundry list of psychedelic motifs. Though they’re strongly, maybe intentionally emulating the nameless pop groups of yore, Jonny brings together the strengths of its two leaders to create a set that is both fresh and familiar.

With one very notable exception (which I’ll address momentarily), the songs on Jonny barely crack the three minute mark. The songs are hardly rushed, but they state their saccharin cases quickly and dissipate before causing irreversible tooth decay. Early highlights like “Candyfloss” and “Goldmine” provide lively rhythms and harmony-swathed hooks. Even slower numbers like “English Lady” and “Bread” carry a certain wistful charm that keeps them from getting laborious.

Blake and Childs save the pensive experimentation for “Cave Dance” which, after barely two minutes of a jaunty rave-up, switches to a minimalist meditation on two chords or less. It’s the kind of piece you might find toward the end of a Yo La Tengo album. Given the pacing of Jonny’s first half, “Cave Dance” turns out to be an intriguing but ultimately egregious digression. There are, in fact, a handful of songs that follow “Cave Dance,” but their unfortunate placement means that they (and the four bonus tracks on some editions) will be forever overshadowed. Jonny, the band and album, is a captivating experiment that embodies what side projects and collaborations are all about: creating sounds that please curious listeners as well as the musicians themselves.

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~ by E. on May 4, 2011.

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