Christopher John White – Vol 2 – These songs feel fragile, no, the songs feel beautifully strong, they’re delivered in a fragile way, or maybe in a private personal way, like we weren’t really meant to hear them like this, like a sketchbook full of songs , like we weren’t really meant to catch him (or whoever he caught?) pruning the roses or feeding the birds (or setting a trap for earwigs), people watching? Quiet observations. There so much here, beautiful unfinished, delightfully raw and and open and feeling a little bit like we’re privileged to get these glimpses, un-whole songs? it is an obvious (way too lazy and obvious I know) to compare what we have hear to those Syd Barrett albums if Syd had been from Suburban Surrey maybe? But that really is lazy of me and what you really need to do is let these songs spend an afternoon with you and a cup of Brook Bonds Tea. I know next to nothing about Christopher John White, Volume One was wonderful earlier this year, especially that utterly beautiful England in The Rain song, Volume Two has just emerged this week.
– Chris White lived in Kingston for most of his life. He went to Latchmere school and then to Rivermead Boys School, which was definitely the hardest school in Surrey. At 15 he had a nervous breakdown and then recovered for a couple of years; and this pattern repeated for most of his life. Along the way he created some interesting music. He finally died of a rare form of cancer, still singing –
I know next to nothing of Christopher, our paths may have crossed, Kingston and Cardiacs and all that, but if they did then I don’t know about it. 37 more songs, very English songs, observations, the girl on a bicycle, the kind of girl that gets to work on time. Acoustic songs, violin, and all kinds of Jerusalem far from the maddening crowd. Suburban psychedelia, songs of beauty and that magic in the Kingston air is what we said last time and whoever took the tie to gather all this together probably only though it was for his friends, a labour of love, but I never knew him or of him and these recording are brilliant.
Somebody who did know far more than me said of Volume One – “If you’re from Kingston and a certain age it’s pretty likely you will have come across Chris White, as part of the Mag 7, the Kytes, the New Victorians, the Lightbulb Heads (or by himself) – or quite possibly, the host of local musicians he influenced – Cardiacs, and The Trudy being the most durable amongst them – Englishness and childhood experiences being big themes in his work. For his own influences, Syd Barrett, Nick Drake, Roy Harper, Peter Hammill, a bit of Caravan – I expect you get the picture…” I’d add the Englishness of The Kinks to that list – and there he goes, “pills for my brain because I’m insane” and society telling him he’s null and void and you wonder who the Queen of the Masquerade was and if he ever got to tell her? So much treasure here, mystery, more home made Southern English suburban acoustic psychedelia and looking over a neighbours fence and lost umbrellas and rocking horses and jack in the box and spick and span faces and never going out and everyone is wrong and are we really going to park our cars on Jupiter or Mars? They really are treats and I really expected Volume two to be bits of things that weren’t good enough to make the first one but no, not the case and all the weather or the whether or not and they may or may not be “finished” but there’s a delight here, a charm and the bloke he co-wrote that one Wild Horses song with? Was it his other self? And the urban city cage and wild horses wouldn’t blame yer and some of sounds very sad and some of sounds delicate and some of it sounds very lo-fi and you know how that sketch book an artist will never let you open and there he is lazing on a sunny afternoon and an excellent Working Class Hero and well I enjoyed it, what more can I say? Glad we got to know a bit him , thank you Christopher. (sw)