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John Butler Trio - April Uprising Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 8.5
Musicianship 9.5
Lyrics 7.5
Production 9.75
Creativity 8
Lasting Value 8.5
Reviewer Tilt 9
Final Verdict: 87%
Member Ratings
Vocals 7
Musicianship 7.38
Lyrics 6.75
Production 7.25
Creativity 7.25
Lasting Value 6.75
Reviewer Tilt 7.5
Average: 71%

John Butler Trio - April Uprising

Reviewed by: cshadows2887 (05/17/10)
John Butler Trio - April Uprising
Record Label: ATO Records
Release Date: April 6, 2010

Anyone who has ever seen The John Butler Trio live can tell you how gifted a musician and entertainer John Butler is, but until now, their records have been a hit-or-miss proposition. Even the 2004 masterpiece Sunrise Over Sea, a truly wonderful record, had moments where the jams went too long and detracted from the excellent set of songs Butler had created. The follow up, Grand National, found the trio expanding stylistically and experimenting with their arrangements and production, but suffered from a lack of really compelling material. Butler’s fifth proper release (fourth under the Trio moniker), April Uprising, is finally the stylistic progression fans were looking for after Sunrise, significantly more produced and with more concise individual songs.

The biggest change on April Uprising is the change in the Trio’s lineup. Michael Barker and Shannon Birchall, two virtuoso players who had been touring with Butler since Sunrise and had recorded Grand National, are out and new bassist Byron Luiters and former drummer Nicky Bomba are in. This change in personnel is not incidental, as it signals a shift away from extended jams and toward a more straightforward approach to song arrangements. The eerie guitar tones that open the first track, “Revolution” are an immediate signal that there has been a change in John Butler’s sound, moving into realms outside of his usual funky acoustic and slide guitar. He sings the verses with a fragile subtlety that was rare in past records and this, along with the song’s dynamic nature, makes it a highlight.

The next song “One Way Road” is where the party really starts though, its jaunty rhythm and reggae/hip-hop tinged vocal making for arguably
the most danceable track in his catalog and one guaranteed to make the listener smile. “C’mon Now” is similarly bright, joyful and stomping, with chiming percussion adding an interesting element to its rollicking chorus. Even the slightly silly “Don’t Wanna See Your Face” has a killer dance rhythm and an infectious playground-chant refrain that will get the listener moving.

Butler also puts his own spin on the idea of the straightforward rock/pop song, eschewing his usual intricate, funky guitar licks for simple riffs which serve the song. The first single, “Close to You” is the closest the band has ever come to a barnburner, with elements of garage-rock worked into the trashy, palm-muted guitars, though it is of course infused with Butler’s distinctive flavor. Similarly, the wonderful “Johnny’s Gone,” has a locked-in, propulsive rhythm which serves to make the wistfully bouncy and beautifully harmonized chorus leap out at the listener even more. “Steal It All” is equally straightforward and effective. The best of these streamlined songs, and consequently the best song on the record, is “Fool for You” a song as sentimental and touching as Sunrise’s classic “Peaches and Cream,” but aided by a simple, yet increasingly intense arrangement (including a lovely string accompaniment) which lets Butler’s emotive vocal take center stage in one of the highlights of his career.

Those who long for Butler’s older material full of funky, earthy grooves will certainly not be disappointed. Songs like “I’d Do Anything” and the reggae tinged “Gonna Be a Long Time” fit snugly in Butler’s traditional sound. He also turns out the ballad “Mystery Man,” full of his trademark intricate guitar picking and more than a bit beautiful. Even on his more familiarly-styled tracks however, Butler finds new nuances, such as the ethereal, wordless falsetto he employs on the banjo-laced “Ragged Mile (Spirit Song),” which gives the song a decidedly haunted edge.

As wonderful as the record is, it still suffers from Butler’s trademark flaws. At fifteen songs, the record is far too long, though the concision of the individual tracks makes this easier to forgive. Butler is also still a very limited lyricist, prone to very simpleminded political statements and well-intentioned, yet obvious platitudes about saving the environment and being good to each other. What makes these lyrical shortcomings forgivable is the combination of Butler’s career-long consistency with promoting these issues and his obvious passionate belief in what he sings about.

April Uprising may not make the average listener’s year-end list and it probably won’t win Butler many new converts, but for those who have followed Butler’s career, this is an album to celebrate. No longer is Butler just a gifted instrumentalist with one great record under his belt, but a man capable of expanding and refining his sound to produce very, very good albums.

Recommended If You LikeBen Harper; Dave Matthews Band; Rocky Votolato; State Radio


www.myspace.com/johnbutlertrio
 
Displaying posts 1 - 8 of 8.
08:07 AM on 05/18/10
#2
aradiantsunrise
i'm not as dumb as i am
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Very well written review.
05:26 PM on 05/18/10
#3
Chris Collum
No dumbass dove in my dumbass brain
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You should review things more.
This is good.
05:29 PM on 05/18/10
#4
cshadows2887
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You should review things more.
This is good.

Thank you, sir. This was the only thing I've bought in the last few months that wasn't big enough to get a staff review. I want to review more stuff if there's more stuff I pick up that doesn't get covered.
05:25 AM on 05/20/10
#5
CheckeredFloors
nah
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Surprised anyone outside of Australia knows them
01:06 PM on 12/11/10
#6
El_Jeffe
In Love With It All
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Really well crafted review mate.

I enjoy this album, & it's great to see something like this being reviewed on AP. But I was a fan who enjoyed the earthy jams of his past to an extent. Upon listening to this album, sometimes it felt that the refined conciseness restricted them a little, with a few songs falling in "nothing much happened" category, which is a shame, but perhaps these songs still sound great live.

I also had a great affection for Michael Barker's work behind the percussion kits. While I have focused on the flaws, I do think there are also many highlights on this album. I knew an album like this would come eventually from Butler, always have, but whenever I know he is recording I would always think "don't let it be this record" haha.
01:09 PM on 12/11/10
#7
cshadows2887
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Really well crafted review mate.

I enjoy this album, & it's great to see something like this being reviewed on AP. But I was a fan who enjoyed the earthy jams of his past to an extent. Upon listening to this album, sometimes it felt that the refined conciseness restricted them a little, with a few songs falling in "nothing much happened" category, which is a shame, but perhaps these songs still sound great live.

I also had a great affection for Michael Barker's work behind the percussion kits. While I have focused on the flaws, I do think there are also many highlights on this album. I knew an album like this would come eventually from Butler, always have, but whenever I know he is recording I would always think "don't let it be this record" haha.
I think it makes sense though. If you're going to jam the songs out live anyway, why not really go the opposite way in the studio. Make both experiences distinct and essential for your fans.
01:14 PM on 12/11/10
#8
El_Jeffe
In Love With It All
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I think it makes sense though. If you're going to jam the songs out live anyway, why not really go the opposite way in the studio. Make both experiences distinct and essential for your fans.
I understand that, but like many talented musicians, I don't think Butler's creative mind works well under the constrains of a 3 minute procession, he needs to time to develop & build upon himself (musically). But all'n'all I do enjoy the album, & it's good to see another fan.
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