Friday Full-Length: Child, Child

Melbourne-based heavy blues rockers Child released their self-titled debut on Feb. 19, 2014, just over five years ago. It was the right vibe at the right time, though quite frankly, in terms of time, now works pretty damn well too. Comprised at the time of guitarist/vocalist Mathias Northway, drummer Michael Lowe and bassist Jayden Ensor, the three-piece made their purposes plain right in the opening lines of “Trees” that set the record on its way: “Every day/Every day I have the blues.” Even in the repetition of “every day” at the start, Northway conveyed the band’s aesthetic adherence to what he was singing about. They used to call it “blue-eyed soul,” which was a nice way of saying “made by white dudes stealing from black dudes,” but whether it was Cream and Led Zeppelin, Ten Years After, John Mayall, ZZ Top or Stevie Ray Vaughan — or any of the multitudes of others who heard Robert Johnson and subsequently picked up a guitar — Child would hardly be the first to bear that tag. For what it’s worth, they wore it well on the five-track/37-minute LP. Australia’s complicated and ongoing racial history is its own thing, and I’m no expert on it, but whatever else one might say about cultural appropriation, white people in Australia didn’t hold African slaves in America, and that makes a big difference in how one should think about their relationship to African-American culture.

And while they might have the blues every day, Child weren’t shy either about expressing them in a massive wall of fuzz as “Trees” made its way through its second half. The languid opener gave way to “Stone by Stone,” a fluid jammer that underscored the whole-album sensibility of the work overall. Though “Trees” cut to silence at the end and “Stone by Stone” picked up from there, the live feel came through as an essential component of what the band were doing. Coupled with Northway‘s melodic flow in kind with the lead noodling and the bass that seemed to anchor the groove even as the drums built toward one chorus after the next, “Stone by Stone” and the tracklist-centerpiece and side A closer “All Dried Up” that followed, it became clear that the listener was experiencing a live set transposed to tape. It’s a two-sided LP in its construction, no doubt, but even as the guest organ from the mysterious Horce entered into “All Dried Up,” it was easy to imagine Child tucked into some barroom corner, maybe on a stage, maybe not, building up the track — also the shortest on the record at just over five minutes — and turning heads among those seated around them drowning their own woes. The child self titledoverarching naturalism of the recording — its tonal warmth, the relatively barebones presentation of instruments and vocals clear but not overly produced — set just a balance for the trio to make their statement in tying together heavy rock and blues traditionalism while making both sound refreshed for their handling.

I don’t want to say side B was where they really got down to business — since “Trees,” “Stone by Stone” and “All Dried Up” were nothing if not down to business — but in “Mean Square” and “Blue Overtone Storm/Yellow Planetary Sun,” Child hit another level of molten blues, and drew together the dual facets of their personality once more with an organic feel that wasn’t just indebted to the ’70s in a vintage-sense, but seemed to delve deeper, playing toward what inspired the heavy rock movement in the first place. That was, in large part, the blues, but also psychedelia, garage rock and even the pop of the day. “Mean Square” resolved itself in a hypnotic lumber, finding a place between past and present that’s as ready for repeat listens as any heavy blues I’ve ever heard, and at just over 10 minutes, “Blue Overtone Storm/Yellow Planetary Sun” reminded of the understated hooks that were present all along as the reward for those repeat listens, playing out complemented by a gloriously fuzzy lead in the first part of the song with languid drumming keeping the nod rolling beneath as the bass filled out the room with heavy bottom low end. The change happened at about four minutes in, but if you weren’t paying the strictest attention, it was easy to miss and wake up a minute later wondering what the hell happened as Child Sabbath‘ed their way into “Yellow Planetary Sun” like the intro to “War Pigs,” but slower, and the basis for the part itself rather than just an intro to depart from. The tension in the drums as Lowe never misses the beat was astonishing all the same, and one more Northway held down the kind of solo on guitar you could imagine leading the way into a 20-minute jam on stage. You would not hear me complain.

By the time they got around to following-up the self-titled with Blueside (review here), released in 2016 through Kozmik Artifactz with likewise glorious cover art by Nick Keller, Jayden Ensor was out of the band and they’d brought in Danny Smith. The live feel of the debut was brought even more to the center as an essential part of their presentation, up to including studio chatter between/before the songs, and the hooks grew as well with the employ of guest backing vocalists to enhance the soulful delivery. After Blueside, they continued the progression in 2018 with the likewise live-recorded EP I (review here), that brought together the sleek rhythm of “Age Has Left Me Behind” and the 10-minute jam “Going Down Swinging” with the Spirit cover “The Other Song,” which was only fitting for the treatment Child gave it.

They toured Europe last year and in addition to shows around Australia it looks like they’ll be back in Europe this coming summer, as they’ve already been confirmed for Black Deer Fest in Australia to the UK is a long way to go for one show. Not to say that’s impossible, but yes to say I have my eye out for a tour announcement sometime in the coming weeks.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Man, I fucking hate the music industry. The little corner that heavy rock occupies is cool. By and large the bands are decent human beings — no rule is absolute — and the labels and PR, even when you’re not cool enough to do something, at least they kind of let you down easy. Like, man, I can’t do shit with Relapse to save my life. They don’t need me. What, I’m gonna premiere fucking Windhand when they’ve got NPR on their side? Hardly seems likely. But I get it and it’s good for the bands to get that kind of exposure, so I roll with it. What choice do I have other than banging my head into the wall? Okay then.

But I got a reminder this week of how fucking lame and terrible and faux-professional and low-stakes-pretending-to-be-high-stakes the music industry at large is, and straight up, fuck that shit. It was a reminder to me of how burnt out I was 10 years ago when I started this site in the first place. I’m just not cut out for that game. Every now and then, it’s probably good for me to remember that. I’ve always sucked at it. I don’t want to sell you shit. I just want to write.

Probably fortunate, then, that I have so much god damn writing to do. Today was a mess trying to get that All Them Witches review done in time — I finished it right before I put it up, which is rare these days; I usually let things stew at least for a while — and yesterday I was finishing today’s Quarterly Review post and starting that even as I was about to call Dave Chandler from Saint Vitus for an interview that — gawd willing — will be posted here at some point. All this while I’ve still got Weirdo Canyon Dispatch stuff hanging over my head, TWO releases of PostWax liner notes to write, and because absolutely I said yes to this when the email came in in the afternoon, a bio to write for the new Nebula record.

I. Am. So. Fucking. Stupid.

You ever want proof of my sense of self-value: I’m getting paid for none of this. That’s what I think of me. That’s how much I’m worth in real numbers (actually, it’s considerably less when you factor in debt). I got a PayPal for $18 from Dropout Merch last week for t-shirts and got excited.

My brains… are going… into my feet.

But while I sit here and tempt end-of-naptime fate, let me not waste your or my precious time bitching. Next week is also busy as we get into holy-crap-I-gotta-get-this-done-before-Roadburn mode as though anyone other than me lives and dies by that coverage and what “needs” to be finished in terms of “work” for me to leave the country with a clear conscience.

Here’s notes. Expect them to change:

MON 03/25 Quarterly Review Day 6; Pyramidal track premiere.
TUE 03/26 Stone Machine Electric vid premiere/review; Duel vid premiere/review.
WED 03/27 Chalice of Suffering track premiere; Slush track premiere.
THU 03/28 Cities of Mars track premiere.
FRI 03/29 Witchfinder premiere.

That Tuesday will determine the whole week.

It’ll work out. And I’ll get my shit done. This isn’t the busiest I’ve ever been by a longshot. A few hours here and there over the next week and a half and I’m set. And what additional factors made a part of my life say, about 17 months ago, could possibly complicate that in any way?

I’m so exhausted.

Happy Spring!

Have a great and safe weekend. Thanks for reading. Forum, Radio, and merch at Dropout.

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