Friday, January 19th, 2007

The Two Of Us

Here’s the second part of yesterday’s Suede post, covering all things Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler that aren’t actually Suede.

You may recall that Butler walked out of the sessions for Dog Man Star before their completion but he wasn’t inactive for long, soon partnering with UK soul singer David McAlmont. Together, they produced two singles – “Yes” and “You Do” – that blended Butler’s penchant for heavily orchestrated guitar rock with McAlmont’s three-octave R&B range for astonishing results. Though the chemistry was undeniable, it was also highly volatile and the duo split after recording just enough material for an album – The Sound Of McAlmont & Butler which while decent, doesn’t come near to reaching the heights of the two singles.

Once again left to his own devices, Butler briefly joined The Verve while Nick McCabe was in a snit but later began teasing the UK press with hints as to the next singer he was going work with, saying only that it was someone “already famous, but with a reputation for being extremely difficult to work with”. As it turns out, that someone was himself – his solo debut People Move On was released in 1998 and was surprisingly solid. His voice, though a bit thin and reedy compared to Anderson or McAlmont, was more than passable and fit well with his more singer-songwritery material. He hadn’t gone totally folky, however, as there were still more than a few elaborate and ornate guitar workouts present. The follow-up however, Friends & Lovers, didn’t manage to keep the standard up and was a generally dull and forgettable record. But still, Butler had proven that he could stand on his own and didn’t need to work with a diva-ish singer to produce compelling music. And so he went right out and did just that.

I don’t have Bring It Back, the second album from the unexpectedly reunited McAlmont & Butler, but will happily agree with Thierry in yesterday’s comments that “Falling”, the first single from said album, is again an absolute gem. By the magic of eBay I should have a copy of the record winding its way to me in a day or so – I hope it maintains that level of quality. Work began on a third album in 2004 but they were shelved – only a single, “Speed”, was released – as Butler found himself working with another former collaborator who had recently found himself band-less: Brett Anderson.

It may have taken a decade, but the hatchet was buried and what had seemed like only a fantasy to Suede fans of old was actually happening – Bernard Butler and Brett Anderson were actually working together again. Forging a new identity as The Tears (as in to cry, not to rip), they released Here Come The Tears in Summer of 2005. While it disappointed some who rather unfairly hoped that stepping into a studio together might somehow de-age the pair by 10 years, I found it to be better than I probably had any right to expect. Lyrically, Anderson shelved the sleaziness and seductiveness of Suede for a more optimistic and, despite the negative connotations of the word, mature tact. Butler continued to do what it he does but is also more restrained than he’s been in the past. It was like they were consciously trying to avoid the sonic trappings of Suede even if that was what they were undeniably best at. To me, it sounds like not unlike Coming Up if Butler had played on it rather than Oakes.

But Tears don’t last and in Spring of 2006, after a fair bit of worldwide touring in support of the record (though not in North America), Anderson announced that the band was going on hiatus while he worked on a solo record. This time the split was entirely drama-free, however, and there’s no reason to think that there won’t be another Tears record someday – just not right now. Butler has been busy doing production work and planning a third solo record (what about that third McAlmont & Butler album, hmm?) while Anderson’s imaginatively-titled Brett Anderson will see the inside of stores on March 26 and it’s safe to say that people are still interested – he sold out three London shows in under five minutes. He had been premiering demos of his new material on YouTube but only one of them is still available – guess we’ll just have to wait until March to hear how it all turns out. Update: The album version of “Scorpio Rising” is posted on his MySpace, link below.

And I would be remiss if I let these posts go by without mentioning that Bernard Butler is quite possibly/probably my favourite guitarist around. I spent more time than I care to admit back in the day trying to cop his riffs, his tone, everything. Wholly unsuccessfully, I should add, but it was something to aspire to. And even though I don’t really play much at all these days, I still occasionally dream of owning a Gibson ES-355 plugged into a Vox AC-30. Le sigh.

MP3: McAlmont & Butler – “Yes”
MP3: The Tears – “Autograph” (live on BBC2)
Video: McAlmont & Butler – “Yes” (YouTube)
Video: McAlmont & Butler – “You Do” (YouTube)
Video: McAlmont & Butler – “Falling” (YouTube)
Video: Bernard Butler – “Stay” (YouTube)
Video: Bernard Butler – “A Change Of Heart” (YouTube)
Video: Bernard Butler – “Not Alone” (YouTube)
Video: The Tears – “Refugees” (YouTube)
Video: The Tears – “Lovers” (YouTube)
Video: Brett Anderson – “Love Is Dead” (YouTube)
MySpace: McAlmont & Butler
MySpace: Bernard Butler
MySpace: The Tears
MySpace: Brett Anderson

Pitchfork reports that Echo & The Bunnymen’s old best-of comp, Songs To Learn & Sing, will be getting a makeover next week and be rereleased with nine additional tracks covering both eras (original and reunion) and a live DVD as More Songs To Learn And Sing : The Very Best Of. I had been on a mission to acquire the original Bunnymen releases on vinyl (I only need Crocodile) but if I’m being honest, it’s the Songs compilation that I listen to most when I need some Echo action – I’ll be happy to replace it with this expanded, younger and sportier model.

Maria Taylor will make up her canceled show at the El Mocambo from Summer 2005 with a Winter show at the El Mocambo. She’s there March 21. Her new record Lynn Teeter Flower is out March 6.

Dean & Britta tell Harp about the albums that changed their lives. The Feelies, Dean? Wow, I’m shocked. Shocked, I say.

So Much Silence is currently offering up a vinyl-only b-side from M Ward, a different version of “Magic Trick” featuring vocals from My Morning Jacket’s Jim James. M Ward is at the Mod Club next Saturday.

Daytrotter has posted a studio session with Headlights.

By : Frank Yang at 8:28 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Eric Grubbs says:

    Not to be nit-picky, but I’ve heard that Butler was locked out of the studio while recording DMS and that was the final blow. Any truth? Torr Leonard, care to share what you know?

  2. Saturna says:

    Great news about Echo and The Bunnymen. I love those guys and you are right the best of, is all you really need, although I’ve been collecting the old vinyl myself. Good luck finding copies in good shape, they seem hard to come by at least in Portland, OR.

  3. Karl says:

    The Feelies were an excellent live band, esp. circa 1986 or so. I wish I had a dollar for every pick that would fly out of Bill Million’s ferociously strumming hand. I also wish they had put out the version of "Fame" they do as the reunionband in Demme’s "Something Wild." Le sigh, indeed.

  4. Matt Berlyant says:

    I have to respectfully disagree with you and one of the above commenters here regarding Echo and the Bunnymen. Songs to Learn and Sing is a great introduction and how I got into them (and also essential for the inclusion of "Bring on the Dancing Horses" and the studio version of "The Puppet", the song they performed in the movie Urgh! A Music War), but their 1st 4 albums contain lots of gems not found on that admittedly terrific comp. "Pride," "Villiers Terrace," "Show of Strength," "Over the Wall," "Clay," "My Kingdom," "Thorn of Crowns," "Crystal Days" and others are all essential IMO. I have no interest in the new version since I have most of the latter-day albums and the only one I like is Siberia, the last one.