CD Reviews

Butch Walker and the Black Widows - 'I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     September 18, 2010    
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A bona fide contender for album of the year.

For the uninitiated, the name Butch Walker may well draw a blank, which shouldn’t really come as a surprise, as, particularly on this side of the pond, his material has largely been conspicuous by its absence.

The real tragedy though, is that whilst he remains anonymous, his work is anything but, with A listers such as Avril Lavigne and Pink relying on both his songwriting and production expertise.

Set the time machine for the early 90’s, and some readers of this fine publication may remember Mr Walker’s first stab at success with South Gang, a hair metal outfit who made a minor stir with the albums ‘Tainted Angel’ and ‘Group Therapy’. From the ashes of South Gang rose a far more potent force in the guise of Marvelous 3, who issued three releases, by far and away the best of which (in this reviewers’ opinion anyway) was the sublime ‘Ready Sex Go’ in 2000.

Since then, Butch has been switching his time between writing and producing other artists, whilst also releasing his own material, the quality of which has always been consistent, with his stripped down take on modern life delivered through biting lyrics and a power pop vibe.

Though not his first release with a backing band (check out 2005’s Butch Walker and the Let’s Go Out Tonights), this debut with the Black Widows is a serious shot at the title. ‘I liked it better when you had no heart’ pulls no punches, wearing its own ‘heart’ firmly on its sleeve.

From the opening, Pettyesque bars of ‘Trash Day,’ Butch and the boys have it nailed, with the quality of material on offer never dipping below ‘outstanding.’ ‘Pretty Melody’ uses its orchestral flourish to transport you back you back to a different time and sound, whilst ‘Don’t You Think Someone Should Take You Home’ drops it down a step further, beautifully overlaying acoustic guitar, fiddle and trumpet. The dreamy ‘Stripped Down Version’ is followed by the brooding ‘Canadian Tan,’ with its country style drawl wonderfully complemented (but never overshadowed) by a welcome horn section.

The production, as you may well have guessed, is first class throughout, perhaps best illustrated on ‘Temporary Title,’ with its layered harmonies and multi-instrumental approach – something which makes this album stand out head and shoulders above the competition. ‘She Likes Hair Bands’ is a first class example of Walker’s lyrical prowess (referencing his formative ‘band’ years) and a real contender for best album track. ‘House of Cards’ picks up the pace with a distinctly ‘sixties’ flavour, with ‘They Don’t Know What We Know’ sounding like an amalgam of Fats Domino and T Rex. ‘Days/Months/Years’ boasts the best line on the album – “I kissed a man in Reno just to watch him puke”. Genius! For the finale, ‘Be Good Until Then,’ Butch opts for yet another change of pace, relying on a slow strummed acoustic and his insightful lyrical observations.

Yes – you may have heard this a million times before, but believe me when I say that this is a bona fide contender for album of the year and if justice be done, make Butch Walker and the Black Widows a household name (though for very selfish reasons, I’d rather they remain our little secret, or to quote Twisted Sister’s Mr Snider, our very own ‘diamond in the pocket.’)


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