The Voluntary Butler Scheme - The Grandad Galaxy - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Voluntary Butler Scheme - The Grandad Galaxy

by Clare Stemp Rating:8 Release Date:2011-07-18

What delights are these now? It's easy to assume (if you're jaded and judgemental like me) that everything you haven't heard musically will be twee and dull, especially if your life is twee and/or dull. But this, albeit not exactly edgy, is not dull. And is only a little twee in areas, but electronically so, which de-twees it significantly. Hmm, satisfying.

This is The Voluntary Butler Scheme's second album, all the work of one man who goes by the name of Rob Jones. There won't be any comparisons to his debut At Breakfast, Dinner, Tea, because it didn't fall into Soundblab's eager crotch. However, it turns out there has already been a review of four of the tracks off this latest offering in the way of his April-released EP The Chevreul. The Grandad Galaxy has built on this good work, with some silly samples and equally silly titles. It often feels like absorbing one long Beatles (on acid) versus Aphex Twin (on Diazepam) mash-up, which is admirable stuff. So many influences and genres to mimic, so little disc-space, but this album has a good ol' stab at variety: the first hats-off hurdle is cleared.

Among some of the non-instrumental tracks, there are clusters of good lyrics, as in the pearl of wisdom 'Don't Rely on It, Don't Count on It' with its wonderfully Beatles-esque drum flourishes and vocals: "Don't put money on it/ Don't put petrol in it/ Don't throw your wallet at it/ Treat it like a MiniDisc". There are also some - hopefully deliberate - naff ones. Nothing seems able to offend on this album; you can almost smell the good nature it was made with. There is a breeze of humour and goodwill here which is very difficult to dislike. Like a warm day in the park with an ice cream, any turds you trod in are quickly forgotten.

Opening track, 'Hiring a Car', is a bit funny. It's a bit funny because it's called 'Hiring a Car'. It's difficult to imagine what a song with this title would sound like, and this probably wouldn't be it. So that's something you can enjoy locked into your skull next time you set about hiring a car. Its quirky electro-cheek will make your upper body jig about to the clanking glockenspiel chimes and fluctuating beat. Its rattling conjures visions of said car falling to bits as it speeds along. Ha ha - holiday crash! Injured LOLs.

Whimsical numbers like 'To the Height of a Frisbee' and 'Astro' almost cross the barrier into overly twee, but luckily stop just before that label applies. 'Astro' describes Jones wanting to live his life "on the moon", because he wants more "elbow room". Somehow, this is really affable. (It is definitely best to try to ignore the Lightning Seeds-style riff sandwiched in the middle of it - I banish ye, images of Ian Broudie's face). And there are a few love songs dotted about too, but again, these combine foolish with heartfelt at just the right level, as in the delightful 'Stone' ("It's enough to make me forget my pin code/ My cold heart needs microwavin'…") and 'Empty Hand', with a warming crescendo of xylophone, brass and electro - mushed up and pumped back out.

The infectious 'Do the Hand Jive' is so lively you can actually smell the sweat on Pan's People, running around wildly, tripping their tits off, grabbing harmonicas, and very much doing the actual hand jive. It's guaranteed grins all around with this song, an endearing mix of 70s organ, looped vocals and carefree pop. The grins continue with the instrumental 'Umbrella Fight', which could genuinely accompany an umbrella fight. As the bowler-hatted gentlemen prod each other in a battle over a shoe-shining child, the 30s-style clarinets glide saucily to the addictive beat, with a little help as always from some electronic enhancement. It's just, y'know, merry. Really bloody merry.

Drum technique stands out well on many songs, such as in 'Sky Shed', which lifts the track into an expertly funked up affair - these often lend key, unexpected twists to otherwise gentle numbers. Many of the tracks hark back in style to the 60s and 70s, both percussively and instrumentally, the background "oohs" on tracks like 'Shake Me By the Shoulders' and 'Phosphur Burn-in' lending them a timeless elegance. These hazier, stringed numbers crop up occasionally, but all are as enjoyable as the high-energy ones. Weaker tracks, such as the slightly annoying 'Satisfactory Substitute' with its staid scratching and trippy sampling, could never be expected to hold out in the memory, and should perhaps have been relegated to a b-side, but thankfully these blips are rare and insignificant. The Grandad Galaxy's multi-instrumental, decade-striding approach is refreshing: though nothing is groundbreakingly unique, it is still an interesting blend of tools, with Jones adopting all sorts of techniques to produce a charmingly recognisable TVBS sound.

Yes, folks, this is a fun album. It's frustratingly cheerful, which is not normally something to condone, because cheeriness is only for babies and the senile. For a trip down, I dunno, various memory lanes which all end with lazy eyes and dribbly smiles, or a lively hand jive, this is probably the album you want. Nice one, Jones.

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