Album Reviews

The Voluntary Butler Scheme – At Breakfast Dinner Tea

(Split) UK release date: 7 September 2009

The Voluntary Butler Scheme - At Breakfast Dinner Tea A concept album around the idea of meals of the day? Sounds like a calorific exercise, but then the man behind The Voluntary Butler Scheme, Rob Jones, is particularly adept at spreading himself thinly.

“If you were broccoli I’d turn vegetarian for you,” he sings with a good deal of charm on Trading Things In, a breezy number that suggests he might have been listening to the more amiable end of the US hip hop spectrum, despite the slightly cheesy lyrics.

Someone like Len, perhaps – for Jones considers that “If you ever start to feel square, wear a De La Soul T-shirt once in a while to make you feel more hip hop than you are”. His songs are full of these lyrical vignettes, added to the mealtime mix like sharp bits of chilli or tangy bits of orange.

Sometimes, though, he’s just content to kick back and relax, throwing in a few wistful harmonies in Alarm Clock, which has more than a suggestion of Lazing On A Sunny Afternoon as it ambles pleasingly down the street.

There is a sense of light and shade now and then, and echoes of Charlie Fink’s vocals from Noah And The Whale when Jones protests how “you can’t go treating my heart like bagpipes anymore” on Multiplayer. The music may still be jaunty, but it’s the kind of reaction that suggests someone has stepped on his toes once too often.

The same song proves Jones as a keen melodist, and barely a minute goes by without at least one hummable tune or helium-inflected harmony drifting through the speakers. And where the tunes are in shorter supply, the instrumentation often compensates, as the slightly stumbling gait of The Eiffel Tower And The BT Tower testifies, with its breezy, brassy solo.

Even the miniatures have a jaunty step, and Dancing With Ted Danson presumably makes a play for the middle of the dance with the Cheers-era model rather than the infinitely more sinister Damages character.

Just occasionally too many styles collide in one song, with Split a curious example of a calypso-lite beat and synth pop making a strange acquaintance in a food blender.

Yet the sum of these three meals is a great deal more nutritious than its lightweight pop ingredients. That’s not meant in a disparaging sense, just to say that this is music that requires a glorious lack of effort to enjoy, and doesn’t take much effort to listen to – a jaunty record for people who want to shed their cares.

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More on The Voluntary Butler Scheme
The Voluntary Butler Scheme – A Million Ways To Make Gold
The Voluntary Butler Scheme – The Grandad Galaxy
The Voluntary Butler Scheme – At Breakfast Dinner Tea