By Jack Butler
'Fit The Paradigm' is the debut single from Scotland's indie-rockers Jack Butler.
The album kicks off with current single, 'Hit It Out The Park, Son' and, right from the start, frontman Liam Kelly has a voice to split opinion. His semi-spoken, semi-spat vocal ramblings are something you'll either love or hate, but there's no denying they give 'Hit It Out The Park, Son' a sense of urgency.
'Hit It Out The Park, Son' opens with a tinny drum-rattle, before softening slightly into clunky drum-rhythms, trimmed in jagged riffs. This combination sees 'Hit It Out The Park, Son' buck and bounce in equal measures. Those after a stadium-bothering, sing along anthemic indie band, should steer well clear of this four piece.
Second track, 'From Plea To Paper' is one of those unusual songs where the verse is actually better than the chorus. The chorus may feature some effective interaction between the guitars and the drums, but there's also something unintentionally comical about Kelly's attempts at deeper, more resonating vocals. He's clearly forcing his voice lower than it wants to go.
However, the verses are where this song really comes into its own, mostly thanks to a very unusual, whining chord that's constantly aflutter in the background. Jack Butler put the final twist on this chord by an adding an echo, transforming it into a glacial-cool hook that, like all the best hooks, is as simple as it is addictive.
'Velvet Prose' skips along at a brisk pace thanks to a twitchy, almost industrial-electro beat. And, as in 'From Plea To Paper,' Jack Butler excel at crafting the neat and unusual musical hook. This time, bursts of jerky chords ricochet off a twangy guitar-flutter as Jack Butler deliver both an awkwardly addictive indie judder, and an easy, infectious energy, all wrapped up in one neat hook.
Elsewhere, the chorus takes the tried and tested route of beating the listener into submission with a handful of lyrics. It isn't particularly clever, but it works every time. This chorus will get stuck in your head.
'Let's Testify' is similar, in that it's also built around a seriously sharp, stroke-of-genius chord. This icy-cool guitar-picking gives 'Let's Testify' more character than it knows what to do with.
However, Jack Butler do have a tendency to over complicate things. 'Let's Testify!' moves across so many different musical terrains, that it's difficult to get an impression of the song as a whole. Structurally, 'Let's Testify!' makes little sense. While eschewing the traditional verse/chorus structure can often result in challenging and innovative music, in this instance you'll feel like you're blindly groping through a maze with absolutely no idea of where you're going - and by the end of it, you'll have absolutely no idea where you've been. A clearer, more simplified structure would have gone a long way.
It's easy to see why 'Are You A Hustler?' was given a single release. Crammed with experimental vocals and boasting a great chorus, 'Are You A Hustler?' is a song that doesn't take itself too seriously and, consequently, it's really good fun.
The chorus, where Kelly's vocals ricochet off gang shouts of "are you a hustler? Are you a hustler?" will get lodged firmly in your head, as will Kelly's brilliantly tongue-in-cheek, semi-falsetto vocals.
This song is all about the innovative vocal hook. Jack Butler even open with pulsing, semi-choir, semi-falsetto gang harmonies, that'll have you sitting up and paying attention, and which have a nicely softening, poppy effect when they're layered over Jack Butler's trademark scratchy guitars.
'Are You A Hustler?' is that rarest of things: an indie song that really stands out from the crowd.
'Boy Vs. Beast is different from much of this album, favouring smooth vocals, as oppose to Kelly's usual frenetic delivery. It's also more musically rounded, with a prominent drumbeat running throughout and tying all those jagged riffs together.
'Boy Vs. Beast' builds to a fug of subtly distorted guitar and unobtrusive, harmonious backing vocals, punctuated by squealy chords that put a sharp finishing hook on the song. A funky, well-rounded rock song with the occasional, wickedly angular chord.
'Just Fit The Paradigm' takes Jack Butler's ramshackle sound a step too far, as the short, sharp guitar-notes, shunting riffs and Kelly's characteristically casual, out-of-tune holler, mean that this is one song that's difficult to wrap your head around. With no coherent overall tune, you just might get to the end of 'Just Fit The Paradigm' with no definite idea of what you've just heard.
'Bushido Codes' kicks off in exhilarating fashion, with a wonderfully juddering bit of slide-guitar. The ever-present, echoey chords that Jack Butler seem to love, give this song an expansive feel. These chords are intricate even by Jack Butler's standards, as they scratch and weave away in the background, tied together by a jiggling drumbeat that, thankfully, prevents the complex guitar-work from sounding random.
Another musically intriguing, well put-together song that's just missing that one moment of instant, pop-infused brilliance that'll hook the listener in, and make them want to keep coming back for more. This is also the case with 'He's Got No Game,' which is another good-in-theory, indie-rock song that's missing that elusive extra something.
'Surgery 1984 (Operations 1& 11)' is where it all comes together for Jack Butler. This song is crammed with twinkling synths that compliment the band's bright guitar-picking, and together they give 'Surgery 1984...' a dewy sheen. Not only does this combination make for a sparkling indie-rock song, they also give it an expansive feel, especially when a swell of choir-like backing vocals are thrown into the mix, and 'Surgery 1984...' begins to edge towards epic territory.
Those choir-like backing vocals also serve another purpose as, coupled with this song's dour lyrics, they make 'Surgery 1984...' a surprisingly grim listen.
All the different elements slot neatly together on this track and, what's more, Jack Butler don't spoil everything by dragging proceedings out too long.
'Ostinatos' is a likeable song, simply because it's the sound of a band cutting loose and having fun, most notably on a chorus of silly, Mexican-imitating backing vocals, and an end-section that trails off into hand claps and whoops. Also on the plus side, we see a return to the angular vocal shrapnel of 'Hit It Out The Park, Son.'
Jack Butler's debut comes to a close with 'Apocalypse Clocks.' Opening with a chunk of solid, Jack Butler-style atmospherics (echoey chords and spine-tingling synths) 'Apocalypse Clocks' then slips into the trusty bounding drumbeats and shunting riffs combo, but with some intriguing extra flourishes.
The first of these, are bass-heavy passages that put a darker slant on Jack Butler's sound. The second, are bursts of incredibly twangy guitar-picking that are guaranteed to hook the listener and, lastly, some "whoooo, whoooo" backing vocals that sweep 'Apocalypse Clocks' to a swift conclusion, and prevents 'Apocalypse Clocks' from overstaying its welcome.
'Apocalypse Clocks' is pretty standard, Jack Butler indie-rock, but with a handful of inspired moments that boost it a notch above much of this album.
'Fit The Paradigm' presents Jack Butler as a band who've mastered the art of the askew musical hook, and their tendency not to take themselves too seriously, makes for some really appealing songs, in particular 'Are You A Hustler' and 'Ostinatos.' Their willingness to experiment with different main and backing vocals, also goes in their favour. However, almost every last song on this album goes on far too long. Jack Butler always seem to taper out, rather than go out with a bang and, consequently, you'll be making good use of that 'fast forward' button. This isn't helped by Jack Butler's apparent love for loose, overcomplicated song structures, and random instrumental passages.
But, in every track lurks the makings of a tight, punchy indie-rock song: it's just surrounded by too much additional material.