Review Summary: Big woozy energy
A few years ago I was feeling masochistic, so I watched an episode of Dave Grohl's 'Sonic Highways'. If you're unfamiliar, Davey G (as I like to call him) goes to various US cities and gets some form of inspiration... presumably from the city he's visiting. He then incorporates said inspiration (?) into a Foo Fighters song. The episode I watched featured New Orleans, and I excitedly waited to see what the rich cultural heritage of the Big Easy would be channeled into. A few seconds of processed brass on 'In the clear', it would seem.
Meanwhile, back in time in the year 2000, Danny Leo, lesser known brother of Ted Leo and creative force behind the Holy Childhood, released a short little gem that is literally drenched in beautiful brass, and still sounds like its own indie rock thing. Leo actually seems incredibly adept at soaking up influences and spitting them out in a shambolic brew. He caterwauls like an emo scenester, yet somehow escapes sounding like a confidence trickster fronting a blues band.
The Holy Childhood has a crazy loose jam energy, but mostly sticks to short songs that sound urgent and without any misplaced noodles. If that sounds a bit at odds, wait until you hear the cheerleader-esque backing vocals. Album centerpiece 'Emma Flood, My Best Friend' finally settles into that expansive space where everyone in the setup gets to musically wander around in a pashmina. The guitar peeks out from behind the brass, trading with delightful alacrity as the drums alternate between dust poofing out of a dropped cement sack, and a drunk guy forcing himself to stand up straight.
The best introduction to the woozy delights of this album would be 'Fat Tuesday Everyday', Leo's wailing offset by the sweet unison backup singing. At one point the drums stop and start to the fishing reel guitar licks. No shortage of ideas in the three and a half minutes, Leo finishes with a subtle rant like vocal that drifts into an almost big finish. It's as close to a mission statement as we're going to get before we're on to the next thing.
Honestly, I'm not sure what to compare this riot to. The characterful funeral lament of 'I'm going to the Aiport' segueing into night out call to action 'Narragansett Night Life' is like a blackout. It sounds like how I picture the idealised, imagined magic of New Orleans, but filtered by some guy who just drove through there on the way home to New Jersey. I'd be willing to bet there's no proper way to sequence this - the album sounds like it's tumbling up and down. Grab a bottle, put your arms around its shoulders, and sway down the main road together.