Review: Childhood - Universal High


Childhood: Universal High

Safety and stability are constantly craved by businessmen and politicians alike – a sure-fire success is one to savour and recycle. Those two words also plague all forms of art today, and as trend circles grow smaller and smaller, the search for newness is harder than ever. The ones that create new circles, rather than follow in the footsteps of others, are so few and far between that it’s difficult to know whether a new trend in music will ever be rooted in real originality again.

English band Childhood, after a promising debut, have fallen gratefully into their safety net with Universal High. The group, who showcased a variety of skill and versatility on debut album Lacuna, bring a confident but ultimately all-too-familiar nostalgic disco and funk sound to the party, when really they could have done much more on the avenue they’d already been treading. While occasionally establishing intriguingly complex rhythmic and melodic ideas in opening songs, they fail to build on anything to create something truly memorable.

The root of the issue is not in Childhood’s new, old sound – at least not entirely. While their previous material experimented with a kind of soulful shoegaze ablaze with reverberating guitars, they weren’t averse to a throwback synth or two finding its way into the fray. Here, Childhood have slicked up their hair, slipped on a little cologne and smoothed out the whole setup. Disco dances with psychedelia, though with a distinctly dimmer colour than a clash of those two genres might suggest.

The biggest crime against Childhood here is that they ultimately fail to deliver a single infectious chorus, or even one hypnotic beat. Despite their obvious talent and space to groove at their disposal, what arrives is really an album of essentially filler tracks. There’s no hook to grab onto, no riff to hum to yourself, and when you’re trying to emulate one of soul’s most popular movements, you need both in abundance.

It’s no crime to create smooth, chilled music, especially in an industry dominated by harsher pop and rougher rap. However, this type of sound ultimately needs slightly more direction and definition to make any sort of impact on a listener. While small, isolated fragments, like the saxophone interjections dotted around the album, are a welcome ear biscuit, they are few and far between. Childhood brought the sound they wanted to present to their audience, but overall put little else on the table.