STEADY THE BUFF – Wild Billy Childish & The Buff Medways (Ivy League/Slanted)
1914- Wild Billy Childish & The Buff Medways (Ivy League/Slanted)
25 YEARS OF BEING CHILDISH – Billy Childish (Damaged Goods)
Been playing loads of ol' Billy lately, thanks in no small part to a mate in the States whose tastes run to similar lines. He dubbed 80-odd tracks from his own vinyl collection to disc. After prolonged exposure, it was no real stretch to plonk down the hard-earned for "25 Years…", a retrospective covering all phases of the Chatham eccentric’s career. Then, when the postman came knocking and the P.O. Box was rocking; the wondrous "Steady the Buff"/"1914" set had arrived, courtesy of Aussie label Ivy League. Well, you know, at that particular moment, all our bantam roosters had come home to roost.
In case you don’t know, Billy Childish has been a one-man record company roster in the UK since shortly after the advent of punk. Kicking off with raw-with-a-capital-letter two-chord masters The Pop Rivits, and continuing to flail away with The Milkshakes (whose praises were first sung in Australia in the '80s by Laughing Outlaw Records honcho Stuart Coupe, then a fulltime rock writer), Thee Mighty Caesars and The Headcoats, he’s issued 100-plus albums and appeared on who knows how many records by other people.
The Childish Style is unashamedly unpolished, strictly analogue in its recording approach and usually summons up two chords, occasionally three. It's firmly rooted in the early '60s (reference point: Don Crane, The Downliner Sect). He comes on like a steam-powered coal train with the brakes permanently off. Still living in his Chatham hometown and fiercely opposed to anything resembling pretension or high tech, Billy writes, paints and spits out music, most lately with his trio The Buff Medways (full name: Friends of The Buff Medways Fanciers Association - a fanc club for a breed of chicken, if you didn't know).
Scenesters like Jack White, Beck and Nirvana utter his name in hushed tones – but don’t hold that against him. A mujsical Luditte, Childish never takes it too seriously, once telling Bucketful of Brains magazine that music was "just something to do between fucks".
Headwear is always a point of interest with Mr Childish. In The Buff Medways, deerstalkers (aka "headcoats") have given way to World War One military appointments, but the music remains as it always has – a slave to no man’s trend.
If it’s been a progression nowhere, "25 Years…" pretty well charts it well. The song selection might be idiosyncratic to some, but when you’re picking from 1500-plus recorded tunes you’re not going to be second-guessed. You will have your fave moments (the folksy cover of “Anarchy” and the collaborations with Kyra are among mine).
The Buff Medways have produced three long-players and this beautifully-presented edition by Ivy League (recycled cardboard digipacks and slipcase) gives you two of them. It also shows off Billy and the boys’ liking for WWI military garb and handlebar moustaches. "Steady the Buffs" has the edge on "1914" in my book, but it’s a near run thing. If the Kinks traded an interest in cross-dressers for a healthy dose of militaria and forgot a chord or two, they’d probably be
The Buff Medways (and "Misty Water" is a Ray Davies song, by the way).
What you gonna call it? The Childish attitude is possibly best summed up in "You Are All Phonies" in which he declares "garage rock" to be just as much a part of that statement as anything. It must be hard seeing today’s NME gush getting headlines but Billy almost certainly doesn’t give a fuck. If you think The Datsuns and The Vines really do validly rock, what YOU should do is go and immerse yourself in this stuff. These are three of the best things to come out in 2004 - or 1964, for that matter. – The Barman
3/4 - Steady the Buffs
3/4 - 25 Years of Being Childish
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