No, you did read that correctly, this is a new John’s Children album, going by the name of Black and White and released via Acid Jazz.
It’s a brave move. Bands reforming is nothing new, but there’s a big difference between getting on a stage and banging out a few well-loved classics and going into a studio creating some new recordings. I’ve been struggling to think of anyone who has done it with any kind of success after such a long gap. The only name I can think of is The Creation, with their Power Surge album on the Creation label a few years back. So not exactly a lot of precedent there. All of which meant that I was approaching this in hope rather than with genuine optimism, if I’m being perfectly honest. The end result actually pleasantly surprised me.
I was never a huge John’s Children fan, but I have bought records by them. Indeed, I slipped on the Legendary Orgasm album ahead of reviewing the new one. A bit of ‘compare and contrast’ if you like. It actually contrasts rather than compares to these ears, which probably doesn’t surprise you, although there are hints of the old band coming through if you listen closely.
Not that there’s much of the old band here. The new John’s Children line-up consists of original members Andy Ellison and Chris Colville on drums, with new members including life-long fan Boz Boorder, better known as the guitarist with The Polecats and Morrissey. The material is a mix of old and new too, with a few covers thrown in to make up the dozen tracks.
Some really good stuff within those 12 tracks too. Album opener I Got The Buzz fizzes with an energy you’d expect from a much younger band. Indeed, if I’d heard this blindly passed off as a new garage band, I’d be talking them up on the site right now.
But most of the material is a slightly more mature, 60s-inspired rock, occasionally dipping its toe into psychedelic whimsy and now and again, throwing in some riotous noise, but it is much more restrained than the first generation recordings. Both Train In My Head and Sara Crazy Child are perfect examples of this. Turned To Stone shows a slightly more poppy side, It’s Been A Long Time Coming has a slghtly understated, grandiose feel to it (if that makes sense), while This Is Your Wife throws in a few tasty harmonies and a jaunty, sitar-like guitar break. Nice. But the pick of the bunch, for me, is the appallingly-titled Oh No (She Wouldn’t Swallow), which gets as close to recapturing the original 1960s magic / chaos as you can all these decades on.
But there are some downsides, three covers in particular. Why anyone thought covering Love Is All Around was a wise move is beyond me. It still is (and perhaps always will be) associated with that appalling Wet Wet Wet cover from some years back. This rather pedestrian version doesn’t help in the rescue act. No idea why there’s a take on Lazy Sunday either, especially when the vocal apes the Marriott original so much. There’s even a Beatles cover in the form of Eleanor Rigby. The best out of the three without doubt and certainly the only one that’s genuinely reworked. But that said, it’s still a Beatles cover, which means you’ve already heard the tune to death and probably don’t want to hear it again.
Which leaves me with mixed feelings as I do the summing up. The album genuinely exceeded my expectations in parts, but the covers do it no favours at all. Just a shame three more originals couldn’t have been squeezed in. Would have made this conclusion a lot easier. If you have a soft spot for the original incarnation of the band, this is certainly worth hearing. It doesn’t have the same youthful excess, but age has brought maturity to the music on offer and there are plenty of good tunes here. I’d probably say it was more interesting than essential, but definitely one for fans of the original line-up to pick up.