Butch Walker And The Black Widows – [Album]

Sunday, 28 March 2010

It's always exciting when Butch Walker puts out another record, because he seems to change his face completely every time he does.time he does. His record with the Let's Go Out Tonites! found the singer/producer trying out a set of T. Rex-inspired glam rockers and Sycamore Meadows saw him working out some Wilco-esque alt-country so, upon first announcement of I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart, one had to wonder what shape this new album would take.

Listeners won't be disappointed. On I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart, Walker has flipped the script again and, unlike his previous albums, made no mistake about the fact that it's very much a dramatic presentation.

There's no question that, while it's rootsier in design, Walker has gone bigger this time around. After”Trash Day” routed out a classic Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers vamp that finds the singer mixing classic rock tones (think Petty or Bryan Adams) with some of his own classically trained, theatrical production, Walker pushes still further into the land of classic AM radio with the pretty and lush strings that accompany “Pretty Melody,” but doesn't stop there. The drive to the heart of AM continues (I know this, only because I got near-constant exposure in a '78 Pontiac Parisienne as a kid)with what could have been an old New Country staple in the form of “Don't You Think Someone Should Take You Home” and “Stripped Down Version.” In each of those cases, Walker plays to genre impeccably, taking all the tenets of each form at face value, but also bending them to his will masterfully; inserting his own voice and personality into each and making them his, but not augmenting them so much that they're unrecognizable.

The results are a fantastic, if chameleonic, ride down roads that Walker knows aren't his home, but the singer still plays by the local rules and gets audiences both old and new to feel them. Listeners will know each by the local landmarks that dot them all (pedal steel and a lonesome vocal marks “Canadian Ten” as a tribute to Neil Young; the “whoa-whoa-whoas” define “Temporary Title” as the follow-up to “Only The Good Die Young” that Billy Joel didn't write in 1978, and “She Likes Hair Bands” sounds like a Replacements anthem that would have blown the doors off of fans in 1985 – had they written, recorded or released it), and will findjoy in them if they're willing to not try to compare them to anything else currently working in rock. Those that do try to make any such comparisons will only frustrate themselves and be utterly turned off.

So, with so many shifts present in the album, how would I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart be best characterized? Very simply, the album plays like someone spinning the radio dial in that '78 Parisienne; the only real connection between these eleven songs is the vintage quality of them. Even so, some will say that's enough; it's a smooth and excellent ride for the right set of ears. The album leaves no clue to what could possibly come next from Butch Walker, but it does leave listeners with the feeling that they'll like it – whatever it is.



Butch Walker and The Black Widows – “You Belong With Me”


I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon

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