Butch Walker
American Love Story


3.5
great

Review

by SitarHero CONTRIBUTOR (67 Reviews)
May 8th, 2020 | 78 replies


Release Date: 05/08/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: This is America

On February 23rd, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man, was out jogging in Glynn County, Georgia, when he was shot and killed in broad daylight by two armed white men—father and son duo, Gregory and Travis McMichael. The encounter was filmed on the cellphone of the McMichaels’ neighbour and alleged accomplice, William Bryan. Gregory and Travis McMichael were neither arrested nor charged with a crime by the District Attorney, and were only arrested and charged by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation on May 7th, 2020, following a public outcry after the cellphone footage had been leaked earlier in the week.

“Why is any of this relevant”, you ask? Because this is the America that Butch Walker is singing about on American Love Story.

American Love Story is a rootsy “rock opera”[1] where the protagonist, Bo, is a small town man raised to love “football, god, p***y and pizza” and to hate “f*****s and immigrants” because he’s “an American!”[2] Then one day his life is saved by a gay man that he used to bully which leads him to question his hatred and re-evaluate his identity. He falls in love, gets married, and has a son who turns out to be gay too, but Bo realises that he loves and accepts his son completely. His wife dies, but he raises his son to be an artist and musician, and tours America with him. He finally sees the diverse places and meets the diverse people that he never did living in his tiny bubble of a small town, while becoming the kind of person who “believes in equality and helping out others to make this a stronger and less divided nation.”

Oh...er...belated spoiler alert!...but not really, because it’s all very on-the-nose. The major failing of this album is that there’s little nuance in the lyrics. For much of the album Butch tells you exactly what he’s thinking and who he’s building his protagonist up to be and rarely even seems to try to couch it in poetry. He even throws in “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” (yes, from The Lion King...and I guess F.R.I.E.N.D.S) as the chorus of “Flyover State”. It’s a very Butch joke to make, and there are plenty of others across the album, but it’s also kind of cringeworthy, even by rock opera standards. Thankfully, the songwriting eventually catches up to Butch’s earnestness. The clear inflection point occurs at the midpoint of the story, on “Out in the Open”, where Bo’s life is saved from a car wreck by the gay kid he used to bully:



“When he focused on my likeness / I could see it in his eyes / Everything he’d been taught to hate / Would finally save his life / And the irony about this / I told him with a smile / Your god must work in stranger ways / Than your heart will allow

From there on out, Butch sounds like he remembered to write actual songs instead of focusing so much on the story, and the second half of the album turns out all the better for it. The closing triptych of “Pretty Crazy”, “You Gotta Be Just Who You Are”, and “Forgot to Say I Love You”, are genuinely good songs with “Pretty Crazy” potentially being one of the best songs Butch has ever written. These songs, and the opener, “Gridlock”, are rife with giant hooks and, even at their most earnest, the kind of self-aware snark that his fans love and detractors don’t.

Musically, Butch doesn’t veer far from the well-worn bluesy roots rock pastiche he’s been trading in since the late 2000’s, but his encyclopaedic pop knowledge finds him spicing that template up with new wave synthesizers, gospel choirs, and funky horn sections without ever overdoing any of it. He is also a massively underrated guitarist and pulls off several stunning guitar solos like on the outro of “Out in the Open” and during the breaks of “Torn in the USA”, and “Gridlock”, showing that, even when he can’t quite tap into a lyrical vein of gold, he rarely struggles behind his guitar or mixing console.

You might be tempted to dismiss American Love Story as just another screed by a wannabe woke white dude “virtue signalling to the neighbourhood social justice warriors”[3] to make a quick buck—if you ignore the demographics of his fanbase, that is—and the first half of the album does tend to come off as preachy. Maybe it’s the caricatured stereotype of the evil cis white male that rubs you the wrong way.

But keep in mind that ALS was released the day after Ahmaud Arbery’s killers were finally arrested and charged in the same state of Georgia that Butch was born, grew up, and still spends much of his time in. When he sings about childhood friends who refer to Drake as "one of the good ones" on "Torn in the USA", you just know that conversation really happened. He has firsthand knowledge of the privilege he sings about. The sentiments, as mawkish as they can be, sound genuine and lived-in, especially when relating to father-son relationships and the lessons passed down through the generations.[4] And while it’s true that Butch’s articulation of those sentiments on American Love Story is pretty uneven and often ham-handed, just the fact that he’s trying to start a conversation about a world where a man like Ahmaud Arbery can go for a jog in suburban Georgia without having to worry about getting murdered makes it worthwhile. The presence of some good music on American Love Story is a bonus.

"Gridlock": https://youtu.be/1rz-OvZ8rnw
"Pretty Crazy": https://youtu.be/gp9zI8AY648

[1] American Love Story was released with an accompanying film that can be watched here: https://youtu.be/Y-Kch2Rh9_Y

[2] Don’t shoot the messenger. They’re direct quotes.

[3] I’m not attacking you JWT. I’m quoting you because of how succinctly you phrased that idea.

[4] See also: 2016’s Afraid of Ghosts, Butch’s tribute to his own recently-deceased father.




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user ratings (16)
2.7
average
other reviews of this album
JWT155 (1.5)
You may want to practice safe social distancing from 'American Love Story'......


Comments:Add a Comment 
WatchItExplode
May 9th 2020


8237 Comments


I didn't hate it...the song where he was getting pulled out of his wrecked truck actually made me pay attention. That's as much praise as I can offer.

SitarHero
Contributing Reviewer
May 9th 2020


12055 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, that's the point at which it gets pretty good, for me.

WatchItExplode
May 9th 2020


8237 Comments


I was initially turned off by the fact you used the murder as a back drop for this piece but it came together well.

SitarHero
Contributing Reviewer
May 9th 2020


12055 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks! I thought it might help pre-empt the inevitable "Butch sucks cos white privilege doesn't exist" blowback.

WatchItExplode
May 9th 2020


8237 Comments


If nothing else hes putting out music he obviously believes in, which given his pedigree is unnecessary and worthy of some respect.

SitarHero
Contributing Reviewer
May 9th 2020


12055 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

[2]

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 9th 2020


35316 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Album is not my cup of tea, but it's catchy enough. Review is better than the album.

Digging: Westelaken - Westelaken

SitarHero
Contributing Reviewer
May 9th 2020


12055 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Damning me with faint praise then, are ya? xD

GhostB1rd
May 9th 2020


6410 Comments


Still waitin' on that number dawg.


JWT155
May 9th 2020


14618 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

Well this is one of the most passive aggresive things I've seen in a while. Glad you were able to express your opinions, I stand by mine.



" I thought it might help pre-empt the inevitable "Butch sucks cos white privilege doesn't exist" blowback."



For the record, I really like Butch as an artist, I was the only one to rate his last record and I gave it a 4/5 and stand by it.

SitarHero
Contributing Reviewer
May 9th 2020


12055 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Which part is passive aggressive?

dmathias52
Contributing Reviewer
May 9th 2020


1370 Comments


Ok GhostB1rd, I'll bite -

Right, so let's get to the racist dogwhistle that you claim are "pure statistics". First off, murders are largely intraracial. Trump once tweeted only 16% of white people are killed by white people, yet 81% of white people are killed by black people. I'm assuming those are the statistics you were ready to spout off. That tweet from him originated from a neo-Nazi account. The actual numbers, according to the FBI, are that 82% of white murders are committed by other white people compared to 15% by black people. When you look at "white-on-black crime" or white Americans murdered by Black Americans, the number is about 8%. So yes, it's lower, but . . .

Let's go a level deeper - I found these numbers for you, so now can you find the number of laws that white people have created in the history of the United States (hell, in the last five years) that have systemically oppressed people of color on purpose, forcing them to live in poverty, knowing that poverty is one of the main traits held by people who commit violent crimes, making it easier to say "Oh black people murder" when it's completely untrue and in fact created by white leaders? Then compare that number you found and compare it to the number of laws in American history created by black elected officials that oppress white Americans? Or laws made by Latinx or Middle Eastern Americans that oppress white people? Those famous white Jim Crowe laws or Patriot Act that targeted white middle class suburbia? I think those numbers will be much more of a shining light on racism and oppression in this country.

dmathias52
Contributing Reviewer
May 9th 2020


1370 Comments


You'll probably also want to say something about how cops kill more white people than black people, so I'll jump ahead of you. In 2019, 370 white Americans were killed by cops. In the same year, 223 black Americans were killed by cops. So less than double the amount of white Americans than black Americans, yet white Americans make up six times the population and white Americans committing exponentially more crimes than black Americans. So there are those numbers for you.

Also, let me say that perpetuating that there are high rates of "Black on White" crime is the same argument that led to Dylann Roof committing a crime that was without a doubt a hate crime based on race that led him to kill 9 people and harm countless others when he attacked a Southern black church. So congratulations on parroting the same talking points as an actual white supremacist killer, which is clearly the same side of an argument that you want to be on. Just by stating some like this, you could potentially be inspiring hate crimes. And don't say that this is an over exaggeration, because Roof's manifesto literally claimed that the Trayvon Martin killing "prompted me to type in the words ‘black on white crime’ into Google, and I have never been the same since that day.”. So great job, you're inspiring homicides by white supremacists.
Any other questions you would like to ask? Because I can guarantee the numbers are out there that show that you're being racist.

JWT155
May 9th 2020


14618 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

You may find this outrageously hard to believe, but I agree with almost all of the ideas Butch Walker covers on this record.



I can also find it soulless and pandering.



Hope you enjoyed writing your clap back review, I find it petty and entirely neglecting/oblivious to the points I outlined.

tinathefatlard
May 9th 2020


1759 Comments


Fuck this thread, where’s the music?

WatchItExplode
May 9th 2020


8237 Comments


Now THATS contrib worthy. Props Dmat

WatchItExplode
May 9th 2020


8237 Comments


Also I already forgot about this album

SitarHero
Contributing Reviewer
May 9th 2020


12055 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Lol, don't give yourself too much credit JWT. I wrote the review before I read yours. You might notice that I quoted your comment from the news article and not any part of your review.

Also, the business about white privilege wasn't directed specifically at you but at dudes like ol' Ghosty because, see above.

Nocte
Contributing Reviewer
May 9th 2020


12771 Comments


This thread is probably going to need a few comments wiped by the end of next week.

JWT155
May 9th 2020


14618 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

Sure, my review starts with a date followed by some exposition, and yours follows the exact same format. Complete coincidence....



You can write whatever you'd like, and I'm going staying completely out of your convo with Ghosty lol



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