Remember when the Beatles broke up and there were a few years’ worth of a flurry of solo releases from the members? Okay, I don’t either; really, I was just a wee bairn. But looking back now, it’s still fairly obvious that those solo efforts were hit and miss, never quite living up to the gold standards set up by the band. Being a member of the Beatles was judged as both an asset and a hindrance. Each had hit singles, yes, even Ringo, but no one had an album that held up to their previous work. I would argue at this point that All Things Must Pass is an exception, but even that album has taken this long to gain the cult status it so richly deserved. Probably the spottiest of the foursome was Paul. He varied between beautiful ballads, over the top dramatic nonsense and outright silliness. In a way, Euros Childs’ debut solo album, Chops is like his `Paul’ album. There are moments of brilliance, but it is so all over the place that it’s hard to believe the same guy recorded the whole thing.
Euros Childs, for those who might not know, was the frontman for the Welsh psychedelic group, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, which I used to joke was Welsh for Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. Along with the Super Furry Animals, they made a bit of a splash in the ’90s, but never really gained more than a cult following. That following was strong, however, and a lot of them have been waiting with bated breath for some kind of continuation of the band. Well, now they have it with Childs’ solo debut. It takes a while for Chops (which, incidentally, has an album cover that is adorned with, what else, chops of meat) to really get going. Opener “Billy the Seagull” is more than just odd, it’s downright silly and not in a cool “Rocky Raccoon” way. It’s as if Devendra Banhart got way too baked to even write a cohesive set of lyrics. “Donkey Island” continues the inanity, sounding like a castaway from a Raffi record. As I don’t speak Welsh, I can’t comment too much on the lyrics for “Dawnsio Dros Y Môr,” but I can tell you that at least it started to lead the album into a better direction.
One step forward led to two steps back with another `demo’ type recording of “Slip Slip Way,” complete with background hiss and the clunk of the recorder stopping. The quality of the songwriting didn’t really pick up again until the middle of the album and the surprisingly stellar (after all of the dross) “Circus Time,” a song that again finds comparison with Paul McCartney, this time with some of his finer work. Childs’ voice is lovely in this time, set to a lone piano and later accompanying violin, played by his sister Megan, also formerly of Gorky’s. “Cynhaeaf,” clocking in at less than a minute, continues the new trend of decent songs, with only one sung word, the repeated title. “Hi Mewn Socasau,” another Welsh language song, jumps over to John Lennon solo territory, as if Childs decided he didn’t want to have to choose between two warring parents.
“Surf Rage” takes a subject covered previously by the Surf Punks and Soundgarden, that being, “don’t steal my wave” and makes it so pretty, you have to really pay attention to the lyrics to know what he’s singing about. “First Time I Saw You” is another keeper, which shows me that the only really great songs on Chops are in the second half of the album. This is now at least the third or fourth album that shared this quality. I suppose in this age, when CDs don’t have to frontloaded with potential singles, when everything is downloaded, it doesn’t seem to matter. However, Euros Childs is not doing himself any favors by alienating a good portion of new listeners with the incredible inconsistency of the first half of this record.
I suppose that it didn’t hurt any of the Fab Four’s post-Beatles careers, except for maybe Ringo, and it’s his album with which to do as he pleases. Regardless, there is about half a great album here, and you simply have to skip through the treacle to get to it. When I hear musicians and fans rave about Euros Childs, and this debut album, I hope that they’re talking about the latter half, because if they’re referring to the oddities at the onset, then maybe I’m missing something. Earlier last year, Childs contributed greatly to the debut from Syd Matters, a contemplative singer/songwriter type of album. It is these songs, and the songs like it on Chops, that lead me to agree with his fans.
Paul McCartney- Venus and Mars
Syd Matters- Syd Matters
Harry Nilsson- Nilsson Schmilsson