Renaissance man Billy Childish has successfully managed to stay one step ahead of notoriety by putting out blistering garage rock under a host of names. The garage rock stalwart, sometimes blues man, painter, author, and poet has fronted such acts as Thee Headcoats, Thee Mighty Caesars, and Thee Milkshakes (to name a few) for a couple of decades now, and to add confusion to the mix he's now shape-shifted into The Buff Medway Fanciers Association. And just what the hell is a Buff Medway? Funny you should ask, as the liner notes describe the rise and fall of this strain of hearty domestic chicken, as well as efforts to revive the breed. And what is the modus operandi of these fowl enthusiasts? In a nutshell, shanghai-ing the ghost of Jimi Hendrix and dragging him into Childish's loud, ramshackle garage. Yes, it's an old conceit. Everyone from Lenny Kravitz to Junior Brown to the Chili Peppers wants to lay claim to channeling even a little of the spirit of Jimi, or at least be on record for paying musical homage to the man. Childish's stab is definitely of the homage variety, and Childish makes no bones about his reverence for Hendrix. A couple of tunes on This Is This skate pretty close to actual Hendrix songs ("Into Your Dreams" being akin to "Foxy Lady," and "Cross Lines" sounding suspiciously like "Crosstown Traffic"). The band has also released a 7-inch covering "Fire" and "Manic Depression." But this is no straight-up, one-trick tribute band. First off, Childish doesn't rely on guitar wizardry to get his point across (although his chops are get-up-and-shake-a-fist good, they're just not overly showy); he's more interested at getting to the heart and soul that informed his fallen hero. The rawness and gruffness that Billy has always brought to the table is still front and center as well; the Medways' rhythm section is simply a stronger, cleaner recitation of the efforts of earlier Childish-fronted bands, giving the project a crispness and vitality above and beyond that of the Headcoats. And Billy still sounds like someone's demented former flat-mate who now lives down by the tracks in Wycombe when he steps to the microphone. Hopefully he can keep this act together for a while, because it's his best yet. [ASK/Vinyl Japan]
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