Review: Butch Walker & The Black Widows – The Spade
Published on April 12th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Quite aside from having produced for the likes of Bowling For Soup, Pete Yorn, Avril Lavigne, The Donnas, Lindsay Lohan, Pink, Hot Hot Heat, The Automatic, Katy Perry, Weezer, Dashboard Confessional, Panic! At the Disco, The Wombats and Ida Maria…er…oh, yeah; Butch Walker is quite a nifty singer/songwriter in his own right.
In fact – if I may be so bold – he’s a damn sight niftier than some of the dullards mentioned above, and if he doesn’t quite demonstrate that in spades here…well, you can figure out the rest of this flimsy gag for yourself.
Opener “Bodegas and Blood” is a consummate good-time, laid-back ‘n’ groovy summer rock song with ace wailing guitar (thankfully not in an ’80s metal way), deploying an effective and affecting break-down in order to lend gravitas to a lyric about a girl being orphaned at a young age, but still she smiles at everyone. This isn’t original, but it is pure-hearted and smothered in sunny good vibes.
“Everysinglebodyelse” lays down more such vibes in the face of adversity, this time a hangover – admittedly a somewhat lesser blow than being orphaned, but “Today we’re alive but tomorrow we could die / But I live knowing that I love / And I’d die knowing that I loved” is so soulfully bitter-sweet as to elevate it to ‘life-affirming’ status – but the “Summer of 89” crashes in with gruffly belted out, jarringly authentic ‘whoa oh oh’s and crashing ’80s drums that you fear it could actually be…
…ah, but wait: “Smotherin’ the cover of a ’69 summer / Played through a speaker of fuzz / Nobody knew Bryan Adams wasn’t cool / The TV just told me he was”. It’s pastiche! Thank goodness for that. Unfortunately though, the ensuing “Sweethearts” swims over to meet “Summer of 89” in the choppy waters of old-school jock rock, and very almost drowns doing so.
Things pick up again with “Synthesizers”, its bouncy goodness sounding uncannily like “Come on Eileen” in places, and Walker’s sexy, Andre 3000-like delivery of “I don’t have friends in Pitchfork or NME / No sexy heroin addiction plaguing me / But I can still get down like Frank Poncherello on a motorbike” perhaps the highlight of the album.
“Dublin Crow” leads arching country harmonies into an energetic rock Hoedown, “Closest Thing to You I’m Gonna Find” pits pared-back country-soul against triumphant brass, “Bullet Belt” starts out pleasingly scuzzily before losing itself in raucous, light-hearted blues-rock reminiscent of ’70s Kinks, while closer “Answering Machine Girl”…well, it’s again good solid stuff with some nice lyrical turns (“Are you married or live alone? / Are you Beatles or the Stones? / I need to know”), but the dial lands far closer to ‘enjoyable’ than ‘revelatory’. Which of course is no bad thing.
Rocksucker says: Three Quails out of Five!