It’s true. I couldn’t resist adding another column in hopes of turning you cats and kittens on to more music. This is going to focus on discs primarily from the 80s (and early 90s) that have long been hard to find or sort of fell through the cracks of the collective consciousness. They will also be true records in that you should own the whole thing and not download just a few songs. To make life easy, I will focus on spending some of your eMusic credits. The service is still spotty with new releases but an amazing array of back catalogues have come on-line and digging through ebay or gemm has now been simplified to single clicks at a fraction of the cost. Sit back and enjoy!
Butterfly Child “Soft Explosives”
Sometimes when I have been sitting alone for far too long and the faint whisper of a complicated romance lingers over the room, I know the music that won’t make anything better – but will serve to sip at it’s wine as it lounges about the furniture and listens to my rambles. Some songs just “understand.”
Joe Cassidy has carried on as the only constant in Butterfly Child, from his early haze covered singles under the watchful eye of A.R. Kane to his complicated albums that followed. (All of which are worth tracking down should you like what you hear.) A shoegazer sensibility always seemed to cover his baroque songwriting tracks. Creating orchestral compositions in line with the High Llamas or Eric Matthews work but never losing a tighter pop knack intermingled with a love of Cocteau Twins style textures. It is the type of music doomed to never be in fashion but always relevant. It was also born of a quality not used often enough – it was downright pretty.
The only trouble was Cassidy was prone to experiment – in itself a good thing – but he often released the outcomes as segues between his more song-oriented work. It wasn’t until his cult audience grew as such that a U.S. label wanted to champion his writing and he left his comfort zone of Belfast to move to Chicago to fashion his third disc that he broke through to new heights. Everything before it was wonderful but it would be difficult not to crown the result, “Soft Explosives,” as his greatest achievement. The clarity in the production and compositions is allowed to come through without apologies and everyone is the better for it. Not that times are more inviting in Cassidy’s heart or ever watchful eye… Following unabashed celebrations of love in his previous work, here he explores the common aches we all feel.
“Big Soft Mouth” swirls in with a tentative piano and Cassidy’s overdubbed vocals before giving way to a plaintive delivery on “Drunk On Beauty” detailing those thoughts of hesitation when one knows he might be in over his head. “Holy Hymn” is soulful with a funky wah wah underpinning like a slowcore version of Orange Juice. Three songs in Cassidy’s brilliance in vocal arrangements begins to make you trust all those Brian Wilson mentions he has received. “Number One” does The Verve one better in the Beatlesque orchestration. “When You Return” highlights his acoustic playing and piano figures and has a hushed Guy Chadwick quality. “Mad Bird” dresses a complicated woman that should be left alone in a jazzy shuffle, letting you know that she remains irresistible regardless of the warnings.
“The Beautiful Girls” is more stripped down giving off the feeling of Nick Drake being blasted from a PA system with only you standing in the empty club. “1929” is a string filled break into “Someone’s Sister” and it’s ringing guitar lines in the background. “Zeppelin Catches Fire At Speed” is a wonderfully ethereal vocal interplay that carries a darkness in all of the reverb. “Don’t Talk To Me” serves as the official breakdown as he pushes away his lover amid backwards instrumentation. “Reprise” returns the strings in a more mournful manner as “Gringo” contemplates over a plucked guitar. The darker second half bringing on memories of Spoonfed Hybrid and other dark visionaries. “Life Without The Compass” is the first “rock” style track with the hyper sorrow and confusion setting in late at night. Cassidy closes with the gorgeous “The Sound Of Love Breaking Apart” singing against himself as counsel and comfort.
RIYL: Eric Matthews, Guy Chadwick, The Verve
Cassidy would re-emerge as part of an indie-rock ensemble of should-a-beens as The Assassins, peddling 80’s style dance rock (with Neptunes re-mixes for god’s sake), only to be chewed up by Clive Davis’s return to Arista. The man can’t ever win. Now The Killers fill stadiums with the same thing he was working in 2003… Selfishly I am glad.