Returning to Cardiff for the second time in as many months after a support slot at The Globe with Temples and a raft of NME-induced hype surrounding their hazy and shoegazey take on modern Indie, it would be perhaps forgiven of the audience to anticipate a rawness as Childhood took the stage at Clwb Ifor Bach. The youthful immediacy that previous singles such as Blue Velvet have oozed on record, aligned with the fact they look like The Strokes had swapped instruments and invested in a more summery wardrobe could lead one to surmise the brightness of their early output is a mere adjunct of their fresh-faced age – but to do so would ignore a polished yet sinewy set of intriguing maturity.
They follow a predictably engaging set from Rhodri Brooks – a captivating live presence around Cardiff who you can also see at Gwyl Pili Pala Fest in Swansea the weekend of 16/17 May. Performing now alongside a live band, the subtleties of his lo-fi take on Americana to come to the fore with a fullness of sound that matches the defiant and at times, enjoyably melancholic drawl of his bassy vocals. With a stack of albums already self-recorded, it’s once again a circumscribed treat to enjoy an artist moving at his own languid pace.
Childhood stride on stage looking relentlessly cool, helped no doubt by lead singer Ben Romans Hopcraft’s balmy murmurs which are hypnotically reminiscent of Jim Reid of The Jesus & Mary Chain – especially on ‘Blue Velvet’ where the dark, rich tones of his voice in the verse quickly shimmer when melodically set against the uptempo jangle at the centre of the song.
Not that they ever seem like an impudent presence – in spite of plentifully-scribed hoopla around their previous singles – many of which seemed destined to be crudely pared into some Spotify festival advertising slice – they aren’t a band who look like they think simply being in a band is cool, rather given the authentic gratitude on show to their influences, they look they want to be – in the best sense, in a cool band.
There’s a pleasing similarity in their melodic sensibility to Tame Impala for example – their best songs share with them overarching opaque yet beautiful tones, built not on throwaway hooks but dreamy songs stretched into fascinating shapes by the expressive bass-led rhythms, set against woozy guitars that on occasion give way to anthemic lilts. Live brings out more of Romans Hopcraft’s subtleties and their sometimes too slightly too eager over-production of his vocals on record dissipates here, giving a purposeful clarity that suits more and more as they begin to thrash up the intensity towards the end of their set, notably on a pleasingly ripped up version of Solemn Skies and others which hint at the scuzzy-summery vibes of Surfer Blood.
It’s no mean feat to display a sound that feels so expansive yet buoyant live, especially in Clwb Ifor Bach’s dingy surrounds and it’s the way they have already balanced such nuances that makes their next moves so intriguing. They may have a plethora of hype-worthy and marketable attributes fitting the media framework around them, understandable given their superficial similarity to all kinds of artists, from Stone Roses to Palma Violets – but their texturous vibrancy feels like their debut LP scheduled for this summer, will be not one of stationary sentimentality, but closer to something more interestingly and indefinably vital.