Feb 242010
Authors: Ian Mahan

For an artist so far under the radar in mainstream music, Butch Walker doesn’t seem to be trying all that hard to stay that way. Then again, maybe he is one of those best-kept secrets.

For his latest release, “I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart,” the Georgia native pulls out all the folksy stops and alternative hooks that show why he has such a unique, yet understated following.

Butch Walker and The Black Widows do rock music right on the new album by throwing in all of the necessary ingredients to make a hit record while still remaining the indie scene’s secret love affair.

“Pretty Melody,” the second track on the album, starts with an orchestrated introduction that quickly lends itself to a building drumbeat and a quiet Beethoven inspired piano riff. But the song quickly turns into modern alternative angst rock with chorus lines like, “You’re such a pretty tragedy/ I’m just another tattooed tragedy.”

One of the most memorable tracks on the album, “She Likes Hair Bands” is so influenced by southern rock it would be hard to imagine the song being written in any other way. It combines the best of acoustic guitar riffs, standard beats and lyrics, which resemble something of a soft-core porn movie. Regardless, it’s one of those songs that are impossible to ignore.

Granted, mainstream success isn’t something Walker has achieved at the age of 40, but it seems to be something he is perfectly content staying away from.

“I Liked It Better …” is just one of those albums that would be ruined with the touch of a major label. It is the way that independent music was meant to be written in every sense.

Not all of the tracks are gems, but enough of them have the punch to put the more overlooked ones out of their misery.

This is an album not to be ignored. It might just have enough poison in its bite to bring down the idea that major labels have everything needed to produce.

Music reviewer Ian Mahan can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

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