A Celtic partnership the likes of this hasn't been heard of since Van Morrison (Yes I know he's not Scottish) dueted with Tom Jones. Two giants of music from Scotland and Wales collaborating on a new project that will usher in "The advent of an irresistibly infectious new strain of psychedelic pop". Pairing up founding members from two very influential bands of the nineties sounds like a two headed super group that will have fans and record bosses salivating with unhealthy excitement.
Norman Blake's Teenage Fanclub have been delighting audiences and critics alike for two decades. With 9 studio albums behind them, including the very successful Grand Prix and Songs From Northern Britain, as well as a host of fellow musicians who have either been influenced by them or simply admired their songs, Teenage Fanclub are held in very high regard. Euros Child's Gorky's Zygotic Mynci may not have had quite the same commercial success but they were nevertheless influential in their own right and they too had their fair share of champions, John Peel among them.
So from two people who have either been someone's idea of "The World's second best band" (Noel Gallagher on TFC) or produced their favourite album (John Cale on Gorky's) comes their collaborative eponymous debut, Jonny. The prospect is mouth watering, the anticipation palpable, the results.......mixed. I came at this album with high expectations, maybe too high as it turns out. The songwriting skills are still evident, the use of lovely gentle harmonies and clever vocal nuances still abound but the overall experience is tarnished by some over indulgence as well as some, quite frankly, bad songs.
Opening with 'Wich Is Wich'..........."Has she got a green nose? Well, I suppose. And at the cauldron she's got it going on" Jonny are clearly in a somewhat playful mood. You can throw in all sorts of words here, such as kitsch, pastiche or retro, to make the it sound better but that won't change the fact that the song could be Status Quo. You can imagine the long haired lads on Top Of The Pops doing the only dance acceptable to the male populus of the 70's: elbows out, thumbs clasped around jean belt loops and alternately drop each shoulder whilst keeping your feet firmly routed to the spot. You could even be mistaken for thinking you may have heard it before in an old Scooby cartoon.
The first single taken from the album, 'Candyfloss', follows on with opening bars that lead you to believe they may be doing a cover version of Venus by Bananarana! After repeated plays I decided that it would be best to approach Jonny minus these two numbers. The duo return to the swinging 60's for 'Waiting Around For You' before launching into 'Goldmine', the most overtly psychedelic pop tune on the album. Through 'You Was Me', 'Circling The Sun' and English Lady' Jonny treat us to simpler, slower songs, sung well with great harmonies and hooks highlighting what could have been enjoyed throughout the album. 'The Goodnight' pairs the vocal harmonies with an acoustic guitar and a great keyboard arrangement whilst 'Bread' has a touch of Sparks about it. The over indulgence I spoke of earlier is in the need to trim the 13 set collection but also in the bloated 10 minutes, 2 of which are a hip shakin' good song, 8 of which are a waste in the tedium of 'Cave Dance'. Jonny conclude the album with a nod to the Beatles and a Country twang before signing off with a melancholic ballad.
Having first dueted in 2001 on Gorky's 'How I Long To Feel That Summer In My Heart' Euros and Norman were always keen to pursue the potential in a possible partnership. Now "Two of Britain's most gifted songwriters" have realised that dream with Jonny. It may be a grower, it may just be me, you may want to take it from a different perspective but Jonny was, for me, a let down.