Childhood are a South London band whose new album Universal High represents a huge leap forward from their debut, Lacuna.
Universal High combines low-riding shuffle and jet stream falsettos, with some four-to-the-floor stomp but also traces its finger across classic sounds from the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Shuggie Otis and Prince.
Every verse, middle eight, coda, chorus, slap-bass thunk or freewheeling sax break is a precision-tooled, pop knock out. From Talking Heads-like tessellations that are unashamedly, fist-in-the-air, radio-friendly or joyously tumbling piano-led tunes that could have come out of Brian Wilson’s sandpit. Only here, the outwardly sunny disposition is undercut by a sly lyrical subversion.
The whole album – despite being recorded in Atlanta, Georgia – is deeply rooted in London and informed by a sharp sense of melancholy and disillusionment.
Having started sessions in Normandy before decamping to America, the whole group – Romans-Hopcraft, Dobsen, Thomas Fiquet, Max Fantin and drummer Jonny Williams – have considerably upped their game as musicians to deliver these songs, and in Ben’s case perfect a particularly agile falsetto vocal. One of the main challenges though was to hang on to their own identity as a band while pushing themselves in new directions and working with producer Ben Allen (Gnarls Barkley, Deerhunter & Animal Collective).