Butler, John - Worthless Bastard Rock

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Mystic Records
Catalog Number: MYS CD 145
Format: CD
Total Time: 42:51:00

Perhaps if you stick any folky singer-songwriter behind a harmonica, Bob Dylan will come to mind, but on "Ticket To Heaven" it is especially strong, as John Butler even sounds like Dylan, harmonica or no. Butler's singing voice fluctuates between Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney, and yet, his voice stays consistent, so how can this be so? Oh, it's the phrasing of certain words in certain contexts sounds like this or that vocalist. On "My Brother There" I thought Bruce Springsteen, but musically of such roots rockers as Gin Blossoms or the like. Unfortunately, there is an awkwardness here, where the bass seems too much in the mix and drums out of time, that mars what is otherwise a good song.

This looseness returns on "Perfect Love," which is Lennon-esque in construction, McCartney-esque in theme, and Beatles-esque in sound, especially with the placement and tone of the piano - like an outtake from Sgt. Pepper or Magical Mystery Tour. "She Called The Cops" is a jangly rocker that wouldn't seem out of place on a Tom Petty disc ? and yes, Butler here sounds like the man in question and yes, again, the band seems a little too loose. "Work On It" is a blues rocker in a classic mode, a track that grooves so much you almost can't help but get up and dance a little. Even "Demain Peut-etre" sounds familiar -- the percussive rhythm made me think of Alan Parsons Project's "Don't Answer Me," but that's about the only prog or near-prog reference I can make as regards this release. Otherwise, thought, I can't quite put a name to the song I'm thinking of?something by Springsteen or Dylan I think?maybe a bit of both. It is one of the tightest songs here, though it seems to lose it a little towards the end when guitar comes to the fore but the rest of the instruments to move out of the way to give it room. "New Age Winners" works as that pointedly humourous track with sing-a-long chorus.

The best track here I feel is the understated "The Last Goodbye" where with an economy of words Butler expresses a lot of feeling, using a few telling lines to encompass a larger story, of how the protagonist and the one to whom he's singing got to this point. "Ticket To Heaven" is rathery gloomy in theme, if I read it correctly. "She Called The Cops" is subtle in it's own way, told from the point of view of a (perhaps) abusive protagonist whose girlfriend/wife has decided enough is enough.

Overall, the whole affair feels like the band woke up after an all night party, threw on whatever clothes they could find, grabbed their instruments and then started jammin'. But with a title like Worthless Bastard Rock, maybe all this isn't so surprising, you know, living the bohemian lifestyle of making music during the afternoon, gigging or partying (both) at night, and sleeping in the morning. Of course, doesn't mean to imply musicians are worthless bastards, but perhaps just those that have a casual attitude towards even that. Which, I should add, doesn't mean to imply John Butler does, only that there is something rumpled and unkempt about the album.

The production on the album is good soundwise, though the mixing sometimes seems a little strange - the mix is mostly right on "Work On It," "New Age Winners," and "The Last Goodbye" (though piano is a little too high in the mix), but elsewhere it seems like the wrong instrument has the attention. Other than that, it is an okay release. Tighter perhaps and I'd have a higher recommendation for it.

Ticket To Heaven (4:21) / My Brother There (4:22) / Singing Life (3:30) / Perfect Love (4:10) / She Called The Cops (3:45) / This Time Baby I Don't Know (3:33) / Work On It (5:21) / Demain Peut-etre (4:19) / New Age Winners (4:17) / The Last Goodbye (5:13)

John Butler and guests

The Loyal Serpent (1997)
Worthless Bastard Rock (2001)

Genre: Rock

Origin UK

Added: April 10th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1083
Language: english


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