It was the reunion that no one was expecting. Their first album, ‘The Soundof McAlmont and Butler’, met with no great interest, despite coming right inthe middle of the Britpop era and containing the staggering pop epic ‘Yes’.And then, of course, there was the well-publicised rift between the quietBernard Butler and the flamboyant David McAlmont, as their differencescaused the odd couple to fall out.
The split seemed permanent, as bothwent off to pursue their solo careers. Though Butler’s debut album ‘PeopleMove On’ won great acclaim, few people bought it, while the follow-up is nowonly to be found in bargain bins and charity shops. As for McAlmont, no-onenoticed that he was actually still releasing material.
So, the failure of their solo careers seems to have brought about anenforced reconciliation in the spirit that things can hardly get any worsefor either of them. Over the opening chords, we are told: “This is a recording, this is a microphone. The microphone is working andthe story’s gotta be told. This is the birth, here are the strings. Mix itall in, and let the story.”
Without meaning to be nasty, this statement belies a complete lack ofconfidence, not to mention originality. While we are relieved to hear thatthe microphone is indeed working, it is nevertheless unclear why this storyhas to be told.
The story of this album is: build on what the pair previously did, namely anattempt to successfully fuse Butler and McAlmont’s favoured musical genres,’guitar-led big sounding indie’� and ‘funky old style soul’� respectively.The second track, ‘Falling’, which is the first single to be taken off thealbum, is a self-conscious attempt to recreate the swooping glories of’Yes’, the result of which is, thankfully, a gloriously swooping slice ofindie soul. Very encouragingly, the following track, ‘Different Strokes’,has less of an indie feel, but has just as much enjoyable energy and sonicscope.
But just as we are getting geared up for more of the same, it all gets a bitdisappointing. The title track ‘Bring It Back’ is another great unashamedlypoppy epic, while ‘Sunny Boy’ finds a rare tenderness and sensitivity, butthese are very much the exceptions.
The more expansive tracks lack the requisite passion and originality, whileButler’s quieter indie numbers just come across as faintly.There are encouraging signs of real quality here, though the whole projectfeels worryingly close to the musical equivalent of ex-lovers gettingback together just because no one else will have them.