This is a review of "Untitled" recorded by The Butterfly. The review was written by Rob Paul Chapman in 2005.
The world is undoubtedly a better, not to mention considerably more interesting place with The Butterfly in it. Fair enough, the world may not be entirely aware of this just yet, but with a bit of fine-tuning and some more of the general experience of ‘being a band’ you get the impression that exciting things may be on the horizon.
I do hope so, because the biggest single achievement of this disc is proving beyond all doubt that it is still possible to do something genuinely new and interesting with the rock genre and still craft a perfectly accessible record. Frankly, that is something that seems to be sorely lacking in the current world of mainstream music with the industry’s depressing fixation on rehashing old ideas, placing it in new packaging and passing it off as the Emperor’s new clothes.
Before we get too carried away, it should be pointed out that this effort is not without its flaws, and a couple of fairly significant ones at that, but for a first attempt this gives off all the right signals that its perpetrators are on to something.
From a local perspective, The Butterfly sound like the troublesome adolescent offspring of The Scaramanga Six – Theatrical, slightly experimental rock with songs that wouldn’t sound out of place in particularly dark operetta. However there is an endearing petulance about the way that The Butterfly plunder almost every genre and musical sub-culture imaginable whist simultaneously sticking its fingers up to them by mashing them together with maximum disrespect.
With thirteen tracks weighing in at just under an hour this is ambitious stuff for a demo. In fact, this is a big album in almost every sense of the word. I say almost, because for all the worthy intentions the application occasionally fails to scale to the lofty heights of the ambition. This is the record’s first major flaw.
Central to this is the production. You get the impression that compromise isn’t something that The Butterfly are very good at, but one can’t help feeling that deciding to produce this themselves was far from a great idea. Not only is the sound far muddier than it should be, but the lack of third-party quality control means that at times it sails dangerously close to becoming a vanity project.
For a start it’s way too long. With so much going on the brain starts to stop processing after about two thirds of the disc and it is difficult to imagine anyone making it through in one sitting unscathed. There is rarely a plausible case for any album being over 45 minutes long, but given that the average The Butterfly song contains three times as many ideas as your common or garden alternative band, it would have been safer to shave another five minutes off that to make it digestible.
A band with this much potential needs a firm hand on the tiller, but also a quality technician to organise and prioritise the sounds. To be fair, they deserve it. There is no point in writing creative and appealing music if the listener has to wade through a mushy mix to get there. In fairness, a grungey three-piece would find the production perfectly serviceable, but music like this requires more polish. Although, it should be remembered this is not only a first serious effort, but also a demo. However, if there wasn’t so much potential there would be no point in being so pernickety.
On the plus side though, the music that is here is really rather excellent with barely a repeated idea throughout its entirety. Like A Thief In The Night has the most instant appeal revolving around a scuzzy bass line with shouty vocals and funky drums before launching into a menacing cod-operatic chorus. Boy In the Bubble has an intriguing way of merging a contemporary alt-indie verse with something altogether more abrasive, whilst the diversion into Flamenco-Metal crossover in My Friend Surprise also proves a winner. However, it is the finale Hand In The Fire that really stands out. Subtlety is not a strong suit for The Butterfly, but the blend of the vocal lines here is exceptional.
Ultimately, if The Butterfly can group together and invest in some time in a good studio with a quality producer then they could be capable of something very special indeed. And if I owned Wrath Records or one of the other excellent nurturers of this sort of thing then I’d probably be taking more than a passing interest in their development.
In the meantime, this will do nicely for now, but you can’t help feeling that The Butterfly will look back on this as their chrysalis phase.