Album Review: Childhood – Universal High

By on Friday, 25th August 2017 at 12:00 pm

Childhood Universal High album coverThe cool, sweet, soothing sounds of Childhood are back with us. From the ethereal sounding get-go of opener ‘AMD’, you know ‘Universal High’ is going to hold more than you’ve ever expected from Childhood. While it still has the cool, calm and collected sound of their debut ‘Lacuna’, there’s also a clear evolution to the sound that finds sturdier ground. That is, as if they’ve been doing this for decades rather than 7 years.

Take ‘California Light’, for instance. The second track on the album is all kinds of wonderful. One of their strongest songs to date and it’s already a fan favourite, just look at the Spotify numbers. Six digits for a band that in reality aren’t of that stature, yet. It’s got everything from the foot tapping, gently swaying introduction to the rousing chorus that puts you right in, well, the California light.

While follow-up track ‘Cameo’ doesn’t hit with the same punch, something that’s none too surprising given the weight that ‘California’ holds, it still has a groove that’s undeniably addictive. The crunching bass that moves everything along is joined perfectly by synthesisers and singer Ben Romans-Hopcraft’s voice that perfectly hits every high and low it needs to with such little effort, you wonder if he’s actually of this world.

‘Too Old for My Tears’ retains little of the factors that got us here, instead opting to go for a more rocky feel. A more confident and strutting drum line kicks things up a notch from the more relaxed grooves before, but of course they return to their mellow vibe from before‘Melody Says’ still lets you hold close that relaxed vibe, but this song has a much more experimental, indie-pop vibe. Up to this point in the album, ‘Universal High’ is a bit here, there and everywhere, not completely falling flat, though it’s quite hard to keep the momentum when one of the strongest tracks Childhood have ever written is only second on the album. Still, all good so far.

The titular track heads back to where we began on the album, which is sorely needed. Beautiful melodies, striking choruses and sweet musical sounds are where Childhood flourish. ‘Understanding’ mixes both the traditional and more experimental side of Childhood, which wanes slightly, forcing a happy feeling rather than letting it flow naturally. A similar idea comes along in ‘Don’t Have Me Back’, another faster tempo number, though it’s the use of horns here that save it. Being more upfront, barging through the ensemble rather than being a reserved companion, gives the track a little fire.

‘Nothing Ever Seems Right’ is yet another wandering song, picking up pace occasionally during the chorus where the vocals become an entity of their own, along with the chorus. Feeling like a different song entirely, the chorus is the saviour of the track – the hook in the chorus is where Childhood really know what they’re doing. Getting to that point can sometimes be a struggle, but once you’re there the payoff is more than worth it.

Finale ‘Monitor’, with its harshly picked bass and dream like vocals, is a summary of everything before it. It’s a little bit of the experimental side, with a big chunk of the soothing melodies and a whole lot of soul. The only trouble with both ‘Monitor’ and 4/5ths of ‘Universal High’ is that Childhood simply struggle to match the impact of ‘California Light’. Having a song as strong as that is a blessing for any band. The only downside is, you have to try and at least somewhat match it consistently throughout the length of a record. Still, one hell of a second album, though.


‘Universal High’, the sophomore album from Childhood, is out now on Marathon Artists. The band don’t have too many live appearances left this year; for a list, visit their official Web site.

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