Monday, June 02, 2008

Johnny Flynn - A Larum


Although Johnny Flynn’s music is nothing like Vampire Weekend’s, I had the same problem with listening to both records for the first time – a certain over-familiarity. Just as the New York quartet’s debut was littered with tracks that had been previously released or been found kicking around the internet, so Flynn’s first long-player has songs culled from a good few previously-released singles as well as the odd tune I’ve heard elsewhere. But equally, as before, this didn’t really hamper my appreciation of the album.

I first came across Flynn over two years ago, but then I only knew him as Emmy the Great’s violin player. Since then I’ve watched him emerging as an increasing impressive artist in his own right, assembling his band The Sussex Wit (featuring both his sister Lillie and Matt Edmonds who used to be in Fireworks Night), and releasing 7 inch singles on Young and Lost before being snapped up by Universal for their Vertigo imprint, which released Johnny’s debut album A Larum last week. Since signing with Vertigo, the Sussex Wit’s name has disappeared from the record sleeves, but they’re still there in the ID3 tags and the CD booklet. Fear not, Johnny hasn’t dropped them just because some marketing man thought their name was a bit archaic-sounding.

Having been an avid consumer of Johnny’s music I’m predictably going to say that A Larum is good, and it is. There’s an almost effortless blending of American and English folk traditions to combine something that has its roots in dusty old places, but is also resolutely pop. Tickle Me Pink is one of my most-posted tracks on this blog, but here it is in the finished polished article, still sounding brilliant, like something Johnny Cash might have done if he’d spent more time in rural England. Elsewhere, the songs crackle and pop with youthful energy as Flynn and the 'Wit rattle through their rootsy, catchy tunes. Current favourites amongst the 'new' numbers include the mournful trumpet on Hong Kong Cemetery, the happy hoedown on Sally, and the fact that song which sounds like it might be about a footballer starts with "You're one of these elephant hunters from Ebbsfleet".

It’s not a Johnny Flynn review without mentioning that he’s also an actor, who’s appeared in Shakespeare productions at the Old Vic (even reportedly drawing the theatre’s director Kevin Spacey to one of his gigs). Some people are just too talented. Amusingly, I’ve also got Sweeping the Nation to thank for the factoid that Johnny is also the half-brother of Jerome Flynn, though I’ll not be expecting a cover of Unchained Melody in a gig anytime soon.

Download: Johnny Flynn – Sally
Download: Johnny Flynn – Wayne Rooney

Download a live version of Tickle Me Pink at my recent WTOTS post. Buy A Larum from Rough Trade.

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