On the Record: “Jonny” by Jonny
April 25, 2011
Every spring, I start to get anxious. All of the music I listened to during the winter starts to feel stale, reminding me of the dreary days I spent bundled up, angry that Virginia dared to be so cold. The answer to such a problem always comes in the form of new music, with which “Jonny” is perfectly happy to provide you.
“Jonny,” the debut album from Jonny, comprised of Norman Blake and Euros Childs, two British musicians each with indie-cred of their own, is an excellent cure for those held over winter blues. It sounds like The Kinks and T. Rex got together and found a solid middle ground from which they could pump out consistently upbeat songs. The album cover is a couple of guys with “J-O-N-N-Y” written on their stomachs, but it might as well be four men with bushy mustaches and flowing paisley shirts. This album is reminiscent of 1969, which shouldn’t be a problem for those who enjoy really solid pop music. In classic pop tradition, almost all of their songs run under three and a half minutes. These drops of sweet musical goodness sound best while cruising through town with your windows down.
The album starts off strong with “Wich Is Wich,” a fun play on all the different forms of the homophonic word. The track is certainly not anything groundbreaking, but it’s everything you want from an indie-pop song — fun, energetic and wholly unconcerned with what people may think of it. “Candyfloss,” the next track, sounds exactly like the sticky-sweet confection for which it is named, complete with the sense that you’re in the middle of a carnival. From the simple melody to the excellently executed harmonies, Jonny knows how to write a song that both you and your parents will enjoy. The best example of this is probably
“Waiting Around for You,” which sounds like the unreleased cut of a Kinks song. Lines like “You g-g-got me agitated / I know you know what I mean” were the bread and butter of ’60s pop musicians, and have been claimed and adapted by Jonny. They’ve also embraced the tradition of well-played, but not overly showy, instrumentals that make the listener tap his toes automatically.
The only song that breaks three and a half minutes is “Cave Dance,” coming in at a whopping 10:43. The song is a pop epic, taking the listener through a whole range of experiences, from a relentlessly upbeat and catchy opening to more somber moments, reminding the listener that pop music isn’t just about getting stuck in your head, but about making you feel something as well. The song has so many different movements that it sounds like at least three songs put together. It also features some of the most interesting lyrics on the album, with lines like “we’re going ding-dong crazy like a priest or a clown.”
The bad songs on the album, of which there are a few, are bad in the same way that pop is always bad: They forget about the listener and just get plain weird. “Bread,” for example, mainly sounds like a harpsichord
taken hostage by a small child — who just won’t stop playing.
As a whole, the album is something worth listening to. Sure, Jonny’s songs sound a bit repetitive, and their lyrics are not going to win any poetry awards, but they’re fun. And they’ll make the summer sound a lot more easy-going than whatever else it is the kids are listening to these days.