Arguably one of the most head-shaking albums ever made -- though to the band's credit, that was the whole point -- Battle Hymns for Children Singing might just be what the doctor ordered for insomnia. It's not so much for the fact that the music will put a listener to sleep as much as it will induce a listener to destroy the sound system it is playing on, therefore tiring out that person for bedtime. The sublimely ridiculous "Shiny Shiny," with its opening "Good times come to me now" hook and goony music hall singalong madness (or indeed Madness) -- not to mention the inclusion of everything from inappropriate electric guitar solos to Dexy's Midnight Runners-styled fiddles -- made for a most unlikely early-'80s hit. "John Wayne Is Big Leggy" was an even bigger one in the band's homeland, though, and if it's not the cohesive statement against fascism the liner notes in a later reissue claimed it was, it's still a wonderfully silly bit of spaghetti western pop. Production from the likes of the Clive Langer/Alan Winstanley team and Tony Visconti ensure that the whole album is at least reasonably listenable, while the in-the-shadows lead musician, Paul Caplin, creates a series of serviceable enough reggae rips, glammed-up pseudo-Burundi drumming, and soul stomps that often echo the similar fusions of Culture Club and Bow Wow Wow. It's the half-kiddie-speak/half-straightforward sing-rant of Kate Garner and Jeremy Healey, which makes for the real sonic signature of the album, whether it's the nagging whimpering on "I Lost My Dodi" or the distorted Chipmunks/Funkadelic vocals on "Here Comes the Beast." The idea that the album might be reissued two decades later on CD with extra tracks must have seemed frightening at the time, but there it is -- two B-sides and a variety of remixes plus, if one can stand it, full lyrics.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett