The debut self-titled record from Jonny, a collaboration between Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) and Euros Childs (Gorky’s Zygotic Munci), has an identity problem. It moves in three different directions and never settles in.
Jonny starts out with the band playing the role of a rather playful garage band. Songs like “Wich is Wich” and “Candyfloss” are light, upbeat and full of good humor. Nothing feels serious and there’s plenty of electric organ to go around. The 60’s inspired sound might just make a few listeners do The Twist.
In the middle of the album, the melancholy tendencies of Jonny come out. Songs become weightier and slow down. The rock and roll influences begin to be replaced with folk influences.
“Circling the Sun” is the best of this bunch. It sounds effortless. When the pristine “Ba ba ba’s” kick in just after two minutes, it’s clear how enjoyable Jonny can be at times.
These first two directions from Jonny work well together. It seems odd that like songs are clustered together, but the styles complement each other nicely. It’s the third direction that really brings Jonny down.
On “Bread” and “Cave Dance,” the more eccentric influences emerge. The nearly 11 minute “Cave Dance” is two minutes of a decent dance song followed by eight and a half minutes of aggravation. It kills the vibe for the rest of the album.
As it’s presented, Jonny is best approached as a collection of individual songs. It’s much more gratifying to skip around than it is to listen to straight through. If Jonny had taken out “Cave Dance” and “Bread” and reshuffled the track list, their debut would’ve been tighter and worked much better as an album.
Jonny is out today on Merge Records. Jonny will play the Cat’s Cradle on June 14 with Apex Manor.