Review Summary: Left of Self Centered
There are certain names and figures that are well known and regarded in the music industry, but not really recognized outside of it. Butch Walker is one of those names. A singer, songwriter and a popular producer, Walker rose from the gutters as an indie artist, going through countless of bands and genre before settling into the behind the scenes role his become known for today. Still, every two years or so he still finds enough time to delight his fans with an occasional album.
Starting off with hair metal outfit Southgang, who released two decent albums in the early 90s, and then moving to the short lived experimental band The Floyds, Walker showed diversity in his songwriting that is not found often enough in the music industry. He then went on to join Marvelous 3, who enjoyed some degree of success with their hook-laden pop rock anthems, with song ‘Freak of the Weak’ achieving the most success. In 2002, he released his first solo album Left of Self Centered.
Left of Self Centered is quite an album, an evolution of Walker’s Marvelous 3 days. The catchy choruses are still there and the smart and at times hilarious verses are found in abundance, but Walker displays a new found depth in his songwriting that was only present in fleeting instances during his early attempts at super stardom.
‘My Way’ and ‘Trouble’ demonstrate this new element perfectly. At first listen the audience will most likely find themselves bobbing their heads along to the impressive and addictive verses, without really noticing the raw emotion and depth masked beneath the upbeat choruses and simple riffs. ‘My Way’ plays like a typical stadium rocker with the in your face chorus, but at a closer listen the listener starts to hear the sarcasm in Walker’s voice. ‘Trouble’ is a fun song about a serious life event, unexpected pregnancy. The frantic chorus gains a whole new dimension when the full story is recognized.
Most of the album, instrumentally, is pretty straight forward. The majority of the tracks have an upbeat tempo, and they follow the ‘verse – occasional bridge – chorus’ routine. This should not be mistaken as a slant on the band’s creativity though, as the songs are all well played and have the occasional unique moment. ‘Alicia Amnesia’ has a heavier composition than the majority of the album, with even a good, but sadly extremely short, drum intro and fan favorite, ‘If (Jeannie’s Song)’, starts off with a moving acoustic composition, before the song and lyrics pick up intensity half way through.
Left of Self Centered is Butch Walkers album, his vocals and lyrics take precedence as expected, and rightfully so. ‘Get Down’ and ‘Into the Black’ fill up the mid-point of the album, and might also be the two highlights of this release. The former is a thumping hard rock song, with a brilliant resounding riff and some brilliant backup vocals by Chrystina Lloree. The latter is a more experimental number, with an almost nu-metal approach to it, although the chorus is typical Walker.
‘Diary of a San Fernando Sexx Star’ is another song that deserves individual mention. A hard rock song, with some of Walker’s most famous lyrics, and one that shows his under appreciated story writing ability. The song is sung as a pretty fast pace, and the lyrics are aggressive by nature, but what’s most striking is how the story of Walker’s star develops, being both optimistic and pessimistic, as verses like ‘Life is pretty good with your wood grain walls,’ and ‘Daddy tried to warn ya,’ leaves us guessing on how our ‘heroine’s’ story will end.
Walker is a phenomena in the music industry, after Left of Self Centered he continued to release solo albums once every two years or so, with each album using a different musical style to capture Walker’s mood at the time. Letters and The Spade are particularly fun and well written, with vastly different tones, styles and moods but they still manage to both sound like Walker albums.