Butcher Boy - Profit In Your Poetry

Bill Cummings 13/03/2007

Rating: 4/5

Glaswegian's Butcher Boy hail from the same club as Belle and Sebastian and Camera Obscura. Literally the same club, The National Pop League a monthly club night held at the Woodside Social Club: is a regular haunt for all of these bands, a night of “soul and passion of poetry and perfect pop.” For five years John Blain Hunt played records there, holding a secret close to his chest… He had his own songs and lyrical poetry that rattled with ghosts of former lovers. Songs inspired by books by Orwell and Shculz films by Douglas, Bresson and records by Guraldi and The Smiths: songs about “power cuts and candles.”

It was around Hunt that in 2005 the collective known as Butcher boy emerged, their own definite sound was created. Think early Belle and Sebastian haunted by a real past, the precise poetic pop of the Smiths tinged with a heavy Glaswegian sensibility. Think the tunes of Lloyd Cole and the
Commotions matched to the intimacy of Arab Strap, most of all think wonderfully dark pop music, for nights out or those long dark midnights spent alone by your turntable, reading the inlay, and submersing yourself in the sound.

Opener “Trouble and Desire” doesn't so much begin as sleepwalk into view, dark shuffling piano notes, suitably restrained orchestration and that ghostly whispering vocal, that trudges homewards. While the gorgeously broken hearted pop of “There is No-One Who Can Tell You Where You've Been” is one of the highlights. Luxuriously aching strings, Rickenbaker guitars, a whirling melody that sounds a little like The Hidden Cameras best work, and lovelorn vocals that bring to life a moment of sheer, clawing, heart pounding, tenderness. (“Beneath these arches I feel blessed/Hip To Hip Then Chest to Chest….I love to say that I love you/I call across an empty room.) “Profit in Poetry” is even better, chiming guitars, and a dancing rhythm, blessed by simply wonderful precise pop lyrics. Part early IRS era REM, part primetime The Smiths: literally recounting moments lost in the past with sharp, literate, lyrical vignettes. I like to think its about not allowing someone you love to give up on their creative dreams, but you can make your own minds up. (“I think I understand why you make do/So secretly I paint the mirrors blue/I can see you sleep and see you bleed/ And I can see there's profit in poetry”)

Things are taken down a notch or two with “I Could be In Love With Anyone” a slow burning, sensitive, Scot Walker-ish ballad, that's highlighted by the gorgeously arcing violin parts, and some wonderfully poetic lines. The band's first single “Girls Make Me Sick” is joyous: 50's guitar bends, and heartbroken verses, build up to some great organs, violins, and a myriad of instrumentation; like primetime Belle and Sebastian its bittersweet kitchen sink pop: that juxtaposes a great big danceable chorus with tearful vocals. Elsewhere “I Lost Myself” and “Fun” do rather suffer from the a chorus that lacks the punch of other songs found on the album. While “I Know Who You could be” is darkly grand: imbued with the spirit of 80s indie folk, its melody is infectiously melancholic: its lyrics deal in love's wishful thinking.

“Profit In Poetry” may not quite be the seminal debut that the press release would have you believe, it's a little indebted to the past for that: but by god its not far off. Its an album that's sealed in its own vision of the world, rich with yearning folk pop songs, and unrequited poetic beauty. Emotional songs that live and breathe on repeated listens, songs that could yet see them follow their fellow Scottish musical friends into your sub consciousness. Treasure these tunes.

Release date: 12/03/07