Childhood have reinvented themselves for their sophomore effort Universal High. It’s been over three years since their indie-rock 90s throwback debut LP and the London band has ditched the giddy melodies for something a lot more soul-infused. Playing a set made up of tracks mainly from the July release, they’ve shed their shoegaze skin and veered into a psych-pop direction with hints of Motown and northern soul sprinkled in there. The addition of a trumpet and saxophone player makes it more of a reinvention rather than evolution, and it sounded great on a cold Monday night in Patterns.
No one sets out to make the same album twice, but if you were to listen to Universal High and Lacuna side-by-side you’d struggle to make out it was the same artist. However, the multitude of soul, funk and pop-infused influences appearing throughout all sounded brilliant and carefully crafted. The close to sold out crowd were eager bystanders as each track bounced around hazy pop synths, soulful falsetto vocals and emphatic choruses. The Brixton band look far more confident and assured this time around and appear to love every minute of it.
Frontman Ben Romans-Hopcraft has even developed his falsetto vocal for this album, which is evident in ‘A.M.D.’s slow jam. The same occurs in first single ‘Californian Light’ with its effortless sun-kissed optimism. Meanwhile, second single ‘Cameo’s lusciously unhurried groove ticking along with a delicious, simplistic bassline before the stomping ‘Too Old For My Tears’ put the Motown inspirations out for all to see with its “Oh baby” sing-along chorus.
‘Universal High’s gloriously catharsis, meanwhile, is as much sensuous as it is euphoric, whilst ‘Understanding’ took proceedings down a notch. The brilliant, unashamedly radio-friendly pair of ‘Don’t Have Me Back’ and ‘Nothing Ever Seems Right’ then gained two of the biggest reactions of the evening, before older track ‘Solemn Skies’ ended the night in gorgeous fashion as rich synthetics and intricate guitar work tussled for possession in an infectious final five minutes, which got hips shaking.
“We wanted to make sure we could have all these influences but still make sure we weren’t trying to be a soul band. You can never really forget your D.N.A. as a band,” said Hopcraft in a recent interview. Childhood have done exactly that and, in the process, made themselves one of the country’s most thought-provoking ‘guitar’ groups. On paper, you wouldn’t think that this genre suited the current musical landscape. Though, it turns out the band have a multitude of devoted fans who were more than eager to see the live incarnation of Childhood’s second record. The likes of Lacuna’s ‘Blue Velvet’ still sounded great, but Childhood are an altogether different beast now and it sounds terrific in a live environment. After more than three years, they’re back with a vengeance and sounding fresher than ever.