SQ1 – Billy Childish and CTMF (Damaged Goods)
Billy Childish is one of those artists who lives in a special and hallowed musical place. Loved or at least admired by mainstream music taste arbiters and demographic setters, these people sit firmly on the fringes and don’t give a flying fuck. They do things their own way and that’s why the rest of us love ‘em.
Billy’s been courted by the music aristocracy and has shrugged his shoulders. He lays it all out in the surging organ-tinged opener “A Song For Kylie Minogue”, right down to a request from Beck to collaborate musically. “As long as I get to sing it, boy, and you just play,” isn’t arrogance; it’s downright genius. Who doesn’t want to co-write with that Loser and make a million bucks? Billy Childish! You want to use me poetry, Kylie? "Go ahead, girl, it’s all for free".
If you know Childish’s musical work - and there have been a kazillion albums and band names including Thee Headcoats, Thee Milkshakes and The Pop Rivets - you’ll know what to expect: No frills guitar, bass and drums, embittered, funny or disdainful lyrics, sneering vocals and ragged, punk-inspired tunes. A little self-deprecating and not a hint of self-importance.
The story goes that CTMF (it might stand for Copyright TerMination Front or Clarity Through Fuzz) was the name of Billy’s first punk band in 1977 and many of these lyrics date from back then. The uncredited band line-up may (or may not) have its roots back then. The album’s CTMF’s fourth and Childish’s first in yonks as he’s been busy on the family front.
The mighty “A Glimpse Of Another Time” single is here with its deliciously skewiff lead-break and determined swing. It recounts what sounds like it was one fun gig. The most musically pointed song on the album, “By The Way of Love and Hate”, ups the distortion factor by a few degrees and sounds like early Kinks (but so does lots of Garage, sorry, Shed Rock.) The sing-songy “It Points To The Clue” sounds uncannily and almost certainly unconsciously like Richard Hell. Bet that comparison pisses off Mr Childish.
Is that Nurse Julie’s lead vocal on “When I Think About You” and the downbeat “It’s Over Again”? The contrast works a treat. “Cadillac” is a return to harp-blowin’, blues-wailin’ R & B (when the term had fuck-all to do with Beyonce and middle of the road shit.) The title track ("SQ1") serves as a raison d'être for CTMF. You know what? Square One is not a bad place to be.