Personnel: Billy Childish (vocals, guitar, background vocals); Nurse Julie (vocals, guitar); Jim Riley (harp); Wolf Howard (drums).
U.K. garage rock pioneer Billy Childish has never been shy about letting people know what he thinks about pretty much anything. But the man is in especially opinionated and self-reflective form on 2016's SQ1, recorded with his combo CTMF. The opening track, "A Song for Kylie Minogue," finds Childish opening up about being name-checked by various celebrities, whose motivations he seems to find rather suspect. And on "CTMF," he delivers a brief history of his career as a musician and his struggles with the punk rock ideal. (He also sums up his aesthetic quite nicely with the line, "The reason we didn't sound like the Smiths/Is because we wanted to sound like this.") And other rock & roll adventures are documented for posterity in "A Glimpse of Another Time." The title track reveals that SQ1 stands for Square One, but Childish is one artist who doesn't have to go back to the root. He's stuck by his guns as an independent artist and rock & roll primitive, and while SQ1 is a bit sophisticated by Childish's standards -- keyboards, harmonica, and percussion occasionally fill out the trio's arrangements -- he's still devoted to the power and simplicity of late-'50s/early-'60s sounds. And perhaps because he believes so powerfully in the stuff, Childish and his crew never seem to run out of ideas about what to do with those three or four basic guitar chords. SQ1 is full to the brim with gritty, elemental rock that splits the difference between Link Wray and the first Clash album. And while Childish is the leader of CTMF, he also gives bassist Nurse Julie several chances to show off her impressive skills at the vocal mike, and though Wolf pretty much sticks to drumming, he keeps this music moving forward with style and imagination. SQ1 wraps up with a variation on the Bo Diddley formula in which Billy declares to the world that he doesn't want a Cadillac. SQ1 leaves no doubt that stardom and wealth are not what he and his bandmates are about, but as a tireless advocate for real rock & roll and pure, honest expression, this music is a fierce reminder that the man certainly deserves something for all his hard work, if only a larger audience. ~ Mark Deming