Childhood review – euphoric surf rock with swagger

Local band Childhood headlined the Friday night gig at Windmill Brixton as part of Independent Venue Week. Barney Evison reviews. Photos by Holly Whitaker.

Childhood onstage at the Windmill Brixton
Childhood onstage at the Windmill Brixton. Photo by Holly Whitaker

Psych-rockers Childhood haven’t released any new material since their acclaimed debut Lacuna in 2014,  so it was with much excitement that we headed to Windmill last night with the promise of new tracks from the Brixton five-piece. They’ve been recording for their second album in New York recently and this was their first opportunity to try it out on a live audience, frontman Ben Romans-Hopcraft (who I interviewed last year) told me before their gig.

Support for Childhood came from the Ghost Kings, followed by local Windmill favourites the Phobophobes. With clear inspiration from the likes of Fat White Family, these guys breathlessly delivered an impressive set which left the crowd reeling. A driving guitar drone and discordant harmonies were satisfyingly set off by jangling organ-like keys. They ended at an epileptic fever pitch, their lead singer convulsing over a synthesiser on the floor and green strobes making us all feel a bit dizzy.

The Phobophobes at Windmill Brixton. Photo by Holly Whitaker
The Phobophobes at Windmill Brixton. Photo by Holly Whitaker

Then Childhood took to the stage, opening with two tracks from Lacuna including a storming rendition of indie rock anthem You Could Be Different to get people properly warmed up, before launching into new material. They looked relaxed and confident, filling the Windmill with an infectious sound that would be just as happy in a larger Academy space.

Childhood frontman Ben Romans-Hopcroft on the keys. Photo by Holly Whitaker
Childhood frontman Ben Romans-Hopcraft on the keys. Photo by Holly Whitaker

Their new music is euphoric surf rock with swagger that doesn’t wildly depart from the psychedelic musings of Lacuna, introducing a funk edge that could see them appeal to a poppier crowd. For their first new track, frontman Ben ditches the guitar to pick out a bouncy, dreamy melody on the Korg in front of him. You can tell they’ve been practicing hard, and unleash their new music like they can’t wait to get it out in the wild.

Childhood's Ben Romans-Hopcroft (left) and Leo Dobson (right)
Childhood’s Ben Romans-Hopcraft (left) and Leo Dobson (right)

There’s still plenty of old favourites among the new stuff, including a crowd-pleasing version of melancholic anthem All I Am. They slow things down a bit with Right Beneath Me – a song ostensibly about Brixton gentrification – pumping up to a magnificently delirious finale of Solemn Skies, as if to insist that their music remains rooted in psychedelia.

Childhood’s new album is coming later this year they say, and I for one can’t wait for it – 2016’s summer soundtrack?