Well Fran. I want you to try and be a little open minded for me. I want you to give The Child of Lov’s self-titled album a go. I think it is a wonderfully soulful album. Complex and ambitious. I know you have mixed feelings about the big name collabs Damon Albarn and Thundercat, but there is also a Fran favourite in MF DOOM. This, for me, is an album that has been lost to time, because it was his only album. But really it’s bending and merging genres in a way that was ahead of its time.
So. Matt Paul asks me to be a little open-minded, then goes ahead and drops the names of two artists (Albarn and Thundercat) who he knows I think are often the fly in the ointment on otherwise exciting and interesting projects. He then tries to trick me into thinking that MF DOOM is one of my favourite artists when the truth is that, in all honestly, he is not someone I’ve ever really been able to connect with even if I do respect his craft.
Add to this a WhatsApp message that Matt sent me ten minutes after the blurb for The Child of Lov that you have read above; he lets me know the tragic story of this artist, who died not long after the release of this album due to complications in surgery for a chronic condition he had been living with. That is, of course, devastating. For anyone to lose their life in such a way is a tragedy and there is a particular sadness to a story of an artist who perhaps never got to meet their potential due to things that were beyond their control. But this is a Blind Taste Test, so I am going to have to come at this with my reaction to the music alone. I am also going to ignore my suspicion that Matt chose an artist with such an upsetting back story to try and avoid the type of savaging I have previously given to albums by acts such as Weezer and Liars…
The Child of Lov kicks off his self-titled debut with a pretty generic hip-hop beat, but the almost groan-like vocal that sits over the top of it adds something much more interesting and original. From the image of the artist on the album cover I have to admit that I was not expecting anything like the voice (or voices?) on offer here, from a really deep bellow to a falsetto – but together in such an interesting and unique way that I can’t even tell how many people are singing. One song in, I’m intrigued.
And then ‘Heal’ kicks off with a beat that is something more akin to someone like Prince: a funky, wailing, eighties sounding guitar followed by a thumping bassline on around the one and a half minute mark. The vocals are high-pitched as hell here but it works over the rest of the song. Matt used the term genre-bending (another thing that dulled my optimism early on) in his intro, but after two wildly different songs I am not yet able to identify which genres The Child of Lov is bending. But I’m definitely on board.
‘One Day’ is the track with Damon Albarn, and the point at which I expect to offer my first complaints about what is, so far, a surprising and satisfying album. But I have no complaints. This song, like the last one, becomes really interesting with the introduction of the bassline after about 90 seconds – taking it from something basic but good, to something really fucking interesting. I have no instant comparisons for this song and I think that can only be a good sign. It’s funky as fuck.
I don’t really know why, but my impression from the artwork and Matt’s introduction was that this was probably going to be a hip-hop album with elements of R&B. So far, it resists such easy classification. ‘Living The Circle’ is definitely the closest song so far to being what I expected to hear, with a hip-hop beat sitting under the vocal, but it has a whole host of unexpected sounds popping up all over the place. This isn’t a song I’ll be able to fully get to grips with in one listen.
And I think that difficulty will be one that also applies to the whole album, but that is certainly not a bad thing. If albums were fully digestible in one setting that would be no fun at all. What makes me think this album will deserve multiple listens, though, is this – I just listened to ‘Give Me’ thinking that it was finally the generic, uninteresting song on the album, and began to switch off for the first time. But in switching off, I found that I was nodding my head and tapping my feet – the song managing to grow on me within a single listen. How far will I go after another twenty listens
With the caveat that it could also grow on me, I have to say that ‘Go with the Wind’ is the first track that I could happily do without. The chorus is pretty irritating. But in a way, I’m glad; it’s hard work for me to be positive for too long without a chance for a little moan.
Any worries I have about a downturn are not particularly eased by the start of ‘Owl’ with MF Doom. In fact, in an album that has felt startlingly original and unique from the start I am pretty disappointed to hear the very basic use of a Middle Eastern guitar sound as the main musical offering here – this track does very little for me and, if anything, disrupts a flow that had been developing throughout.
Hmmm. Are we in ‘album of two halves’ territory? ‘Fly’ kind of reminds me of an Outkast offering, but rather than a thumping song from my favourite hip-hop duo it is more like a skit they use to link two songs. Only, it’s definitely not a skit because it goes on for far, far too long.
But wait, what’s this? ‘Warrior’ slows things down for the first time on the album and, over a simple synth and some purposeful percussion, The Child of Lov really lets fly with his falsetto. On the penultimate song, we have the first track which hints at the condition that he had been living with and the power it has taken to get through it. Add to that the strange vocal chorus that makes up the final thirty seconds and the album has been saved from a second half that might have made it less successful than the first few songs had promised.
The album ends with ‘Give It To The People’. It would be a lie if I said it doesn’t feel like a bit of a disappointment to end on the least interesting or creative song of the lot, but it is pleasant and doesn’t move me to a different conclusion of the album as a whole. This is an interesting piece of work. There are moments when it really soars, moments when it definitely dips, and moments when it feels like an artist trying to find their sound. But all in all, it feels like an album that will grow on me when I listen again and an album that should have marked the exciting beginning of a career rather than the upsetting end. And I’m not just saying that because of Matt’s well timed WhatsApp message…
Words by Fran Slater