Butcher Boy - Helping Hands - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Butcher Boy - Helping Hands

by Al Brown Rating:5 Release Date:2011-08-29

Butcher Boy is an eight-piece from Glasgow who make a folk-tinged, polite kind of indie-pop which should be instantly familiar to anyone keeping an eye on Scottish independent music in the last 20 years or so (think Camera Obscura, Fence Records) .

After a short instrumental, 'The Day Our Voices Broke' brings us tragic, quivery-voiced ruminations on "sawdust and hazlenuts" and "dumb, dumb Italian gaze". God knows what it's about, but its doomy nervousness has a certain charm. Moving on to the title track, and even someone with a rudimentary knowledge of 80s soft-rock could spot the hooks nicked from Chris De Burgh's '

) rescues the song to a surprising degree.

I don't want to compare the band to Belle & Sebastian continually, but they don't half make it difficult on songs like 'Imperial'. The motorik beat; clipped, sincere vocals and sighing backing are so B&S it hurts. And the glaring similarity makes it easy to spot where exactly they fall short of that band's (admittedly lofty) heights. Mainly it's the lyrics: too literal, too po-faced; always picking out details but never very interesting ones. 'Bluebells' is long, slow and fairly pleasant: nice jangly riffs and cellos but six minutes without any real variation is asking quite alot of your listenership. I can't help thinking, at the very least, they could play their breakdown cards with more vigour - can't they cut out everything except the vocals, rather than just a couple of instruments, for more impact? Tell me if I'm getting a bit backseat-producer here (or boring you shitless, pop fans who give no fucks about song arrangement).

Things get a bit country-tinged with 'I Am the Butcher', which sounds like an old-fashioned murder ballad, although the lyrics are sadly devoid of gunfights and lynchings, settling instead for the kind of measured, hopeful romanticism that is found throughout the album. 'Your Cousins and I' is the best song of the bunch: a summery jaunt with a carefree, simple melody and thin-sounding lead guitar, like Hank Marvin having a crack at hi-life. The curtain closes, as it opened, with an instrumental - all earnestly plucked guitars and swelling strings: quite pretty, but not the kind of thing I'm going to be screaming to my friends about, each one recoiling as a wax-caked earbud is forced into an unwilling lughole.

So, it's not a bad record then, just, for the most part, not a terribly interesting one.

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