Childhood change up their sound in a big, beautiful way on Universal High.Marathon Artists, 2017
7.5 / 10
Uh…is this the same band from their debut, Lacuna. That album garnered comparisons to bands like Real Estate, Wavves, and Palma Violets. Here, Childhood, the project of Ben Romans-Hopscraft, sounds completely different. Not so much like a mellow indie rock band but one whose specialty is soulful funk jams. If you told me that Childhood recorded this at Spacebomb, I’d believe you. However, they didn’t. Instead, they joined up with producer Ben H. Allen at Maze Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. Allen produced Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion and Washed Out’s Paracosm among others. Needless to say, the guy knows how to bring out the potential of those he works with. And he does so once again on Universal High.
This album borrows from history more than the present. The band channels soul’s biggest hitters from the ’70s and they pull it off quite well. Everything sounds natural and effortless. Ben Romans-Hopscraft’s voice fits perfectly with the warm, vibrant arrangements. Sometimes he switches to mild screaming falsetto. On stand-out, “Californian Light”, he sings, “I can’t afford to, make you mine/ But baby I still make you cry,” while hitting crazy high notes. It’s reminiscent of when Beck was stealing mojo from Prince on “Debra”.
Relationships are the gist of the album’s lyrical content. However, rather than sticking to a solely smooth, tender formula, Childhood manage to keep the beats thumping. “Too Old for My Tears” is the type of Hail Mary love song that goes for broke. It makes you want to move your body with the tempo. Album single, “Cameo”, features a burping beat resembling the modern R&B of Homeshake and sometimes Mac DeMarco. However, the song’s slacker-style cool transforms into this intergalactic funk jam. Much like something Lenny Kravitz would have in the ’90s. While Childhood’s debut was somewhat promising if a little ho-hum, Universal High‘s ambitious changes pay off in big ways.