Popskull

Butterface

G'nesh G'nop Records, 2004

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/03/2004

Butterface… hmmm. The band-name suggests a punk outfit. Popskull: the album-name does enough to affirm that Butterface is definitely punk and has no special inclination towards pop, or even liking for it. The crassly crazy album-cover wraps up the whole mystery of what the band could be. So, even without putting the CD inside my player I can say that Butterface is keen to smash pop's skull.

On the first CD-spin in my player, I hear "Letting Go," my first encounter with Popskull, and Butterface itself: peppy tune with crunchy guitar chunks, with a healthy pop-rock appeal; this is not punk, and definitely not anti-pop. As I go deeper into the album, I find that Butterface is not even close to what I actually thought it could be, and I ended up telling myself, "you could judge a book by its cover, but never judge a band by its name, or the sound of an album by its title or cover"'; I have learnt my lesson.

The closest I can compare the feel of this band, is to that of The Tragically Hip or Soul Asylum. Popskull rocks in copious amounts. It has a good taste for grimy guitar-work and an ear for friendly distortion. It also has an affably sunny sound, one that is more likely to be embraced by pop-music than rock. Still, Butterface isn't too cheesily radio-friendly. It is fun music that can be as enjoyable if taken seriously.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Butterface doesn't want itself to be taken very seriously, and the song-writing is nothing intense, and very casual. This is a good thing, because the band sounds very natural. The album sleeve says that the band loves "Pete's Place," and has a song to that effect (called "Pete's Place"), simplistically describing how it loves this bar called as Pete's Place, which is, as Jerry Rig gaily sings, "more than just a neighborhood bar to me; it's become everything I ever want in a family…I am alive at Pete's Place." This very un-erudite, offhand song-writing approach makes me think of some silly, stupid and treasured nostalgic moments of my life.

The lyrics are not the focal point of Popskull, but the music is, especially Jerry Rig's crispy guitar-work. Though Jerry's cracking vocals don't do much more than merely add a vocal accompaniment to the music, his hands do awfully great job in making Popskull as enjoyable as it is. Very much like the casual nature of the band, the guitar-work, if not seriously intense, makes a strong and noticeable presence throughout the album.

Jerry's vocals are nothing special. But, along with the musical support of Will Poncavage on the bass, Billy Dyke on the drums and of course his own capability with the guitar, the band together do have a pretty good effect on the moods of the songs. The great album kick-off "Letting Go" is pretty and zippy. The album dissident "Impatient" is all sweaty, grimy and frustrated like its title. "Celestia" and "Give It Up" are the perfect exemplars of the cheery nature of the album.

Popskull doesn't have a dull moment, and there are album favorites: "Letting Go," "Celestia," "Give It Up" and "Impatient." But, amongst all the sunshine of the album, the tender and dreamy "Sacred Heart" and "You Need Someone" win heart at the end of the journey through Popskull. Singer Jerry Rig's broken vocals add an unusually mischievous charm to these numbers that actually demand a much less sore singing.

Butterface's uncomplicated, cordial and ordinary manner is its strength. Popskull will not provide solace to a battered soul. It will not change lives, nor will it inspire. It is cheerful and happy. It is like the sunshine on a bright and sunny day: enjoy its shades and shadows in the comfort of your home, or go out and get a good tan; it shines the same.

Rating: A-

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© 2004 Vish Iyer and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of G'nesh G'nop Records, and is used for informational purposes only.