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Butch Walker and The Black Widows – I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart

on April 06, 2010, 8:01am
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Butch Walker‘s latest effort isn’t an out-and-out bad listen. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a slog to get through. I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart could have been titled I Liked It Better When I Heard it on Pneumonia. There are so many instances here of late Whiskeytown-influences that don’t rise to the occasion, leaving Walker out in the dust of his contemporaries.

“Trash Day” is a good enough start to the album. A pleasant pop-rocker with sing-along choruses and big guitars. It isn’t the best song on the album, but it comes close. The opener is an example of Walker at his best: writing crunchy pop rock without trying too hard. When he tries too hard, it turns to schmaltz, like “Pretty Melody”. Its strings and piano clash badly with the percussion as Walker goes for Springsteen but comes up Gavin DeGraw.

The acoustic “Don’t You Think Someone Should Take You Home” is sweet alt-country, and a definite step-up from the previous track. Like most songs on the album though, it doesn’t hang around your head. You won’t find yourself humming the melody later in the day, whether you’re walking the dog or driving home from work. If anything, you’ll be humming “Jacksonville Skyline” (did I mention how these songs sound like Whiskeytown?).

There are a couple instances here where Walker crafts a good tune without going off the deep end. “Temporary Title” and “House of Cards” both have a Madness-feel to them. The strings sound a little inspired as opposed to being simply generated by computers. The fact that there aren’t a lot of bands out there sounding like Madness doesn’t hurt Walker in these cases. It’s when he tries to pull a T-Rex in the chorus for “They Don’t Know What We Know” that the listener resorts back to eye-rolling.

Things come to an end with “Be Good Until Then”. Again, it’s an okay acoustic track that has been done better by Adams, Tweedy, Farrar, Louris, etc. The main problem with Walker is that there is no edge to the music. It’s hard to pinpoint this down to the vocals or the production, but until Walker figures it out, we’ll be more than happy to put on Faithless Street in the meantime.

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