Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Butcher Boy - Profit In Your Poetry (Album Review)

It's that time of the year again when the seasons are confused. There is rain for seconds, minutes, that absolutely drenches you, covers you head to toe in water, so that all you want to do is get inside the nearest grocery store and browse the shelves for products with nice packaging that you know you won't buy. But it stops, almost as quick as it started and there's you, left soaking wet, underneath a bus shelter, taking cover. And as the sun comes out, the clouds evaporate, but you're too wet to fully appreciate it.

I'm in Glasgow, and that's just how the weather is at the minute. Butcher Boy are also in Glasgow and they understand the seasons, the way they are so nonsensical, the way all this talk of seasons may just be a metaphor for life - how the good times and the bad times happen all at once, with no rest. Maybe that's why their music is a collage of musical touch-stones: the stripped back nature of early-day Belle & Sebastian, the shimmer and shine of Camera Obscura, the melodious harmonies of Voxtrot, and the oft miserable wordy foreplay of Morrissey.

Butcher Boy - I Know Who You Could Be

If the sweeping introduction of this song continued for a lot longer than it's mere forty-five seconds... I would be content. It could never outstay its welcome for me. The way it seems designed to soundtrack a camera sweeping in and out of valleys, plains of green grass, mundane villages with Post Offices, Telephone Boxes and Bus Shelters, before once again sweeping across and out away from the suburban sprawl, up the mountainside, before looking up to the sky just in time to follow a flock of seagulls on an outward journey.

Yet the introduction is short, never daring to even tread the line of repetition. Butcher Boy's music is one of economy, (ten tracks coming in at a mere thirty minutes), packed full of emotional strokes, charming melodies and pop sensibilities. Little is explicit in the lyrics, intentionally vague so that so much more is said than that which is explicitly stated. This is a glorious album that the listener is meant to embrace, hold tight against their chest like a pillow, like a lover, and make it their own. By causing listeners to read between the languorous lines, it can be at once universal and personal.

Butcher Boy - Keep Your Powder Dry

This song almost makes my cry. The delight, the delight! the delight! oh you don't understand, how could you? - you weren't there. As soon as it starts in with the shuffling, insistent percussion, and then breaks away into that melody! the melody! oh dear, it's lovely! The song shimmies and sways along a fine line between sadness and happiness, full of memories, oh those memories! Maybe the song is about a lover who never loved as fully as he/she was loved, or maybe its something else entirely. The story isn’t important though! It’s the style behind the content: throughout the lyrics, the sense of colour; Kodak images crystal clear upon the iris even in recollection! oh, the wonder! the shimmering of the clouds as the silver lining almost - yes it does, it does! - catches the Sun's light and, oh, how it shines! The melody carries this song - every instrument is at its beck and call, just waiting for the next twist and turn, the next stop sign, the next green-light, "it's ok! go! yea go! smile, darling, smile!" Even from the deepest valley you can see the Sun’s light if you look hard enough.

I've always appreciated music that could, perhaps, be described as twee, and enjoyed it for what it was. But it's never meant more to me than a pleasant soundtrack to a Spring Day. I think it was always the sense of faux-sincerity that, for me, it revolved around - these kids are delightfully rolling gorgeous melodies off the tip of the tongue - how unhappy could they really be? Yet with this album there's such a sense of wonder, and sadness, and a thousand other simple - yet so complex! - human emotions, that I think I begin to understand how a deliciously happy pop song can cause a listener to let a stray tear roll down their cheek. Profit In Your Poetry wears its influences on its sleeve - it's not revolutionary, yet, for me, it is. Maybe now when I look at a shelf with Belle and Sebastian CD's I'll give them a second look, instead of shrugging and thinking I've heard it all before. Maybe I finally understand this folk/pop/twee shtick after all: Even in sadness there will be memories of happier times and the hope for more.

John Blain Hunt, the leader of the band, says that Butcher Boy's music revolves around memories, an appreciation of the little details in life that make it worth living, especially the vivid sense of wonder! experienced as a child... but more than that; the idea that those moments are gone forever: they can't be brought back. For instance, when I was younger I would always ask my dad to make me tea and toast, despite being capable myself. And he always would, without complaint. But as soon as I decided to start making my own supper, the shared moment, the kind gesture, was gone forever. Today, there are only memories of that time when... Rain falls across the window. The sun will be out soon enough. [Buy]