In reality, Glasgow is no different to Manchester, Sheffield, London, L.A, New York or any other city accorded a rose-tinted musical epoch. Sure, its history is speckled with triumphs, but for every Orange Juice there’s a Del Amitri; for every Belle & Sebastian there’s an El Presidente; and for every Jesus & Mary Chain there’s despicable sub-Phil Spector defecation (say hello Glasvegas). To get to the truth about the west coast’s musical subculture you need to wade through the bullshit. And, Christ knows, there’s a lot of that.
But scouring for diamonds often leads to unpolished gems like Butcher Boy being criminally overlooked. Their 2007 debut, Profit In Your Poetry, was a charming cul-de-sac of fey balladry that tingled with the spritely fragrance of New Pop and bore a genial kinship with Stuart Murdoch’s melody-plucking yeomen. Of course, it bombed - those piquant melodies barely registering in a climate diseased by Topshop-ruffled guitar bands - but the recording was infused with a creative grace that earmarked potential greatness, if only the band didn’t jack it all in.
Thankfully (and almost anonymously) then, the septet has returned with the release of follow up long-player React or Die. A brazen title for an act submerged in an ocean of shite with only a straw for air, this beautifully sculpted record gushes with an emotional tenderness more in keeping with the plush green pastures of Fence luminaries Kenny Anderson and James Yorkston than any Byres Road hipsters.
The immaculate wheeze of accordion that tip-toes around John Blain Hunt’s skeletal annunciation on opener ‘When I’m Asleep’ decrees the group’s elegant craft. You see, Butcher Boy are far from purveyors of the ear-clothing noise that escorts suited carcasses through the daily grind; instead, theirs is the sound of delicate, melody-charred vignettes that requires time, space and an attention span stretching beyond Channel Four list-umentaries to truly appreciate.
Here, beatific soirees flow like wine in a monastery and the effects are equally quenching: ‘The Kiss Will Marry Us’ and the brilliant ‘Why I Like Babies’ are astonishing cheek-dampeners that both enliven and oscillate with swooning melody; ‘A Better Ghost’ jangles with a exuberant Americana rhythm that incites the tandem tapping of all twenty digits; while ‘You’re Only Crying For Yourself’ is a bluster of instrumentation that swoops into Hunt’s tender intones.
The only stain on this cushioning twee-pop patchwork is the laboured ‘Sunday Bells’, a clanging, thrashing cut that never quite accelerates with the grace it should, but the title track’s ensuing chimes press so wilfully in the eardrums such banal throbbing is quickly forgotten. And it’s this perseverance that best sums up React Or Die and, perhaps, Butcher Boy themselves: you’ll have to toil through the dregs to find it but, once you have, you’ll never regret it.
First published here at The Line Of Best Fit