"I like song writing. I like recording songs. I like performing them. I like doing it. I will always do it. So if you like my shi.t, I will keep putting it out... that last part actually sounds sort of gross"
Sophomore efforts often result in failures. The Strokes Is This It? was hailed as a modern classic with The Strokes setting their sight on the world. But with their follow up album, 2003's Room of Fire, even the Strokes biggest fanboys, magazines such as Q, were unimpressed. The album didn't conquer the world- heck the album didn't even conquer France. This is the story of many artists'second efforts; when most artists try to cling on to the same style of music, the same formula for success. Few make large progressions in quality or style, however Butch Walker is one of these artists.
While Butch's debut album, Left of Self-Centred stayed in the same ballpark as his previous band, the glam-influenced power-pop trio Marvelous 3, his follow-up album Letters is a departure from his previous work. Motley Crue and pop-punk take a backseat as song writing influences such as Elvis Costello and even Radiohead took over.
That's not to say there aren't "fun" songs reminiscent of his past efforts. #1 Summer Jam, Uncomfortably Numb and Lights Out all are uptempo poppy songs, similar to Butch's writing expeditions for artists such as Lindsay Lohan and SR-71. Lights Out is a particular highlight of the more "fun" songs, with its catchy chorus and potential to be a great live song as Butch rambles through the lyrics and a quick guitar solo in less than three minutes.
The only other somewhat uptempo song on the album, the drum-driven Maybe it's Just Me is a instruction book on the art of modern song. Featuring just a few chords, with a few guitar fills in the background and a drum breakdown, Maybe it's Just Me is probably the song that would realistically have the most chance as a single in the modern world of music. This song wasn't chosen as a single however, Mixtape was. Portraying both the somewhat romantic side of Butch; "You say hello, inside I'm screaming I love you" and the stalker-ish side, shown with the video for this song in which Butch is shown breaking into a house and returning a girl's mixtape while watching her sleep.
The real highlights of this album however, are in the form of the album's ballads, starting with the piano-based Joan. Joan displays Butch's storytelling talent, similar in style to that of Bob Dylan, as he narrates the tale of Joan, a woman whose life took a turn for the worse and ended up committing suicide. This song also showcases Butch's vocal talents ranging from the sustained notes of the chorus to the almost-whimpers at the end.
Don't Move shows off Butch's vocal talent as well as his unmatched perfection in the art of the bridge. Just when the song is bordering on repetitive, Butch throws in a bridge that changes up the song, freshens it up. By doing this, he is able to turn a sub-three minute song into a 4 minute plus power ballad, with just a thirty-second break. We are also treated to another guitar solo in this song- I'm hesitant to call it a solo however, because it isn't really a solo. It's more of a break- a change up in the song, and in this case leading up to the bridge.
Best Thing you Never Had is clearly the best song off this album. The second longest song on the album, it showcases Butch's talent in his self-described latest bitter break-up song. From the opening line "Hello, how you doing? What's it like to ruin all my self esteem"to the chorus' "But I can't like someone who thought they're the only one that mattered, while my heart got shattered like romantic road kill"Butch is lyrically at his best. However the highlight of the song is at the 3:45 minute mark, as Butch goes into falsetto and an orchestra comes in, backing Butch's vocal work. Butch is right about being bitter; he sounds pissed off at this stage.
If I had to pick a flaw in this album it would be the 7:43 Thank-You Note. I talked earlier about Butch's mastery of the bridge; something this song sadly lacks. This song however, isn't a bad song- in fact if this song was condensed to about four minutes without some of the opening parts it may well be one of my favourite songs on the album. The best part of this song is at the 7:30 mark Butch lets off a wail very similar in style to Bono's.
While not a particularly groundbreaking album, this album is full of excellent songs, with very few cons and with practically no filler. A promising sophomore album for Butch Walker, as he successfully avoids the sophomore album curse that befell the Strokes.
As you can see this is my first review, so all constructive comments are welcome. Depending on what kind of comments I get, I'll leave you with some wise words from the man himself:
"Either thank you or fu