The Children's Crusade

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Given the pedigrees of the players on The Children's Crusade, a collaboration between three "Canterbury" jazz-rock stalwarts, Daevid Allen (Gong, Soft Machine), Hugh Hopper (Soft Machine), Pip Pyle (Gong, Hatfield & the North, National Health), and Kramer (Shimmy Disc founder), this album could go in many directions. If a comparison needed to be made based on past affiliations, at its best, this album most recalls a tougher and more sinister Hatfield & the North. There is more to The Children's Crusade than that; a quick and dirty comparison does not do it justice. The album opens auspiciously with "March of the Goodbyes," a fuzz-bass driven Allen poem about yearning and disappointment. The title track, furthering this theme, is sandwiched between two ambient instrumentals that somewhat recall Hopper's 1984 album. Daevid Allen closes the first half of the album with "Goodbye Mother Night," during which he jazzily craves love without jealousy or loss of independence. The music on The Children's Crusade becomes more aggressive during its second half. "The Killing" is a fuzz-bass and glissando guitar freakout that leads into "Useless by Moonlight," a rant against spinelessness. At this point, the music loses focus. The lengthy "The Revenge of Clare Quilty" begins as a Daevid Allen tone poem and dissolves into a mess of noise and echo that recalls the less charming aspects of Matching Mole. The penultimate track, "Brainvilla Eclipse," a sinewy riff-based instrumental, more than makes up for it though. Finally, "Merkin Muffley's Lament" signs off the album much like the "Radio Gnome Outros" did on Gong's classic albums. With roots in the psychedelic '60s and progressive '70s, and into subsequent jazzier sounds, The Children's Crusade brings together a new permutation of the Canterbury sound, and proves that these musicians remain relevant into the next millennium.

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