The ninth solo album from Singer/Songwriter Butch Walker, who can normally be found writing and producing for the likes of Pink, Taylor Swift, The Struts and Fall Out Boy etc.
Written by: Explorer
ALBUM: American Love Story
LABEL: Ruby Red Productions
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP:Butch Walker – vocals, instruments * Mark Stepro – drums * Christopher Wray, Roger Joseph Manning Jr – keyboards * Annie Bosko, Christopher Wray, Mark Stepro, Paris Jackson – backing vocals
TRACK LISTING: 01 The Singer * 02 Gridlock* 03 Flyover State* 04 6ft Middle-Age American Man * 05 Fuck It (I Don’t Like Love) * 06 Divided States Of America * 07 Out In The Open * 08 Torn In The USA * 09 Blinded By The White * 10 Everything White * 11 Pretty Crazy * 12 You Gotta’ Be Just Who You Are * 13 Forgot To Say I Love You
Butch Walker, to the casual music fan is a name that means very little, but dig a little deeper and you find he’s a big player in today’s music scene. He’s been involved with mainstream pop acts such as Pink, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Fallout Boy and a host of others.
To us here at Glory Daze, Butch Walker is known for his Power Pop/Punky outfit Marvelous 3 who released three excellent albums some 20 years ago and as well as a solo career that has now spawned nine albums of, it has to be said, varying quality.
This new album sees Butch Walker going out on a limb somewhat and he has created a Rock Opera, stop groaning at the back there!!, which whilst dealing with a difficult subject matter has created a very listenable rock album.
Right, so a Rock Opera eh, which usually sends folk running for the hills in terror, but here in the hands of Butch Walker it works, and it works on multiple levels to.
Sonically speaking, ‘American Love Story’ is a modern tale set to a vintage soundtrack. With a heavy emphasis on the late ’70s and early ’80s with splashes of FM/AOR and even Yacht Rock, Walker has seemingly taken the music of his younger years and used it as the backdrop for his conceptual jaunt with superb results.
Initially Inspired by the 2016 US election, Walker began writing a conceptual Rock Opera that delved into the social and racial divide that was around at the time in the US and beyond. Essentially a love story about hate that is centered around three main characters, a racist bigot, a liberal, and a young gay man, so not an easy listen in terms of lyrical content but does make the listener sit up and take notice.
‘American Love Story’ opens to ‘The Singer’ a sonic collage of voices contemplating conversation, it’s an understated introduction but one that gives way to the smooth grooves of ‘Gridlock’. ‘Flyover State’, is once more a catchy tune which includes a play on The Tokens remake of ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ a strange bedfellow but it somehow works.
This paves the way for, ‘6-ft Middle Age American Man’, still with a retro vibe, and a cutting lyric that is at odds with its catchy nature. ‘Fuck It (I Don’t Like Love)’, again with nods to the sounds of the early 80’s but lyrically celebrating and laughing at the complexities of human relationships.
‘Divided States of America’, is a downturn from the upbeat sounds of what has gone before and is a reflective piece that shines a light (from Walker’s perspective) on the death of the American dream.
Next up is ‘Out In The Open’, and you’d be forgiven if you didn’t think this was something that Richard Marx would have put out at the height of his popularity, and ‘Torn In the USA’ has of all things aToto feel to it, but again with an inspired and damning lyric.
The ‘very’ short ‘Blinded By The White’ is a play on the Manfred Mann/Bruce Springsteen ‘Blinded By The Light’ and is exactly what you think it is and it’s a brilliantly observed yet blunt commentary, which leads straight into the funky yet smooth R&B of ‘Everything White’.
As the album moves towards its finale we get the bluesy, smoky ’70s FM strains of ‘Pretty Crazy’ which sets the stage for ‘You Gotta Be Just Who You Are’, with its chiming guitars and funky groove, and the album/story concludes with the quite beautiful minimalist love song ‘I Forgot To Say I Love You’.
This album is on one level an ode to a divided USA, full of rampant racism and homophobia, but also musically a stark picture set to a nostalgic soundtrack that crosses genres but always retaining a Pop sensibility.
Ultimately this is an album with a conscience without being ‘over preachy’. I found myself getting completely immersed in the story as well as the music. I’ve included the full form video below, as this is a record that needs playing from start to finish rather than picking out individual songs.
American Love Story (Film)