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Butch Walker - The Rise and Fall of Butch Walker and... Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 9.5
Musicianship 9.5
Lyrics 9.5
Production 9.5
Creativity 9.5
Lasting Value 9.5
Reviewer Tilt 9.5
Final Verdict: 95%
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Butch Walker - The Rise and Fall of Butch Walker and...

Reviewed by: Craig Manning (09/12/13)
Butch WalkerThe Rise and Fall of Butch Walker and the Let's-Go-Out-Tonites!
Release Date: July 11, 2006
Record Label: Epic Records


For a long time, I’ve thought that The Rise and Fall of Butch Walker and the Let’s-Go-Out-Tonites! was the most overlooked album in Butch Walker’s discography. Maybe that’s because it was the first Butch album that came out after I had become a die hard fan, and was, as such, probably the most I’ve ever anticipated an album. Or because Butch doing glam rock (and making incredibly obvious David Bowie references) produced the most exciting live set I think I’ve ever seen him play. Or maybe the underrated feel I get from this record is the result of the vast majority of these songs never showing up on “favorite” lists when I chat with other Butch fans. Whatever the reason, The Rise and Fall doesn’t get a lot of talk, and it never has. After this record started landing in fan mailboxes in early July 2006, many of the places that had reviewed Letters favorably stayed silent; one of my fellow bloggers, a guy who loves Butch every bit as much as I do, hardly mentioned the album at all until 2009, when it was one of the records Butch played in full during his winter “residency” concerts that year; and pretty much every Butch fan I’ve met on this very site will wax poetic on Letters or Sycamore Meadows, but will seemingly pretend that this album doesn’t exist.

Despite all of this, I absolutely adore The Rise and Fall, and have, at certain times, considered it as Walker’s second greatest album. I love serious, emotive Butch as much as the next fan—and we get a certain amount of that here: see the gorgeously elegiac piano ballad that is “Dominoes”—but you can’t fault a man for being happy, and the Butch Walker on The Rise and Fall sounds like a guy who is ready to throw the biggest, loudest, rowdiest, and glammiest summer rock party of all time. Dropping in the middle of a summer that I still hold among my most memorable—that was the first year I saw Butch live, after all—The Rise and Fall has struck me ever since as the perfect summer party record. The short-lived backing band that was the Lets-Go-Out-Tonites had a lot to do with that, contributing mountainous back-up vocals (the operatic “Oooh...Aaah...” intro track, which hypnotically weaves itself in and out of infectious opener, “Hot Girls in Good Moods”), baroque pop arrangements (“Ladies and Gentlemen,” which features vintage piano, guitar, and bass sounds that could have been on a Beatles record), and plenty of hand claps to go around (the especially glammy lead-off single, “Bethamphetamine”). The band brings a lot to these songs, making them sound explosive and out-of-control in the best way possible. Next to the perfect arrangements and studio sheen of Letters, The Rise and Fall legitimately sounds like it could have been made by a different artist in a different decade. It was the beginning of a streak of records where Butch would remake himself every time he entered the studio.

The album doesn’t get any more conventional as it crashes headlong into its second act, either. Abbey Road strings drench “We’re All Going Down” and “Dominoes,” to the point where they both sound like they could have been extricated right from the center of a classic Broadway musical (especially the latter). “Paid to Get Excited” is an anti-conformist, anti-religion, anti-government tirade, and the loudest, angriest, and most political song Butch has ever written. He hates and regrets the song now, but what would a spontaneous knee-jerk album like this one be without a blazingly misguided moment of indulgence? Speaking of indulgence, is that a backwoods alt-country hymn on “Rich People Die Unhappy”? And is Butch seriously duetting with a major label pop star (Pink) on “Song Without a Chorus,” an anthem about the inequities of pop music and mainstream radio? Yep, Butch pretty much did whatever the hell he wanted on this album, and while the results aren’t half as cohesive as Letters or Sycamore Meadows, there’s an undeniable charm to hearing him hit half a dozen genres in under 45 minutes. The fact that he knocks the ball out of the park most of the time anyway only makes The Rise and Fall’s bizarre mission statement that much more lovable. As Butch sings on one of this album’s songs, “we’re hotter when we don’t give a damn.”

All that said, The Rise and Fall is far from a “fucking around” kind of record. Some of the styles Butch tried here would turn into entire career directions on future albums. “Rich People Die Unhappy” and the anthemic, California-folk finale, “When the Canyons Ruled the City,” unveiled a passion for throwback roots and country music that Butch would explore heavily on Sycamore Meadows (and at least passingly on every other record he’s made since), while it isn’t difficult to hear a “la-la-la” kick-box rocker like “Too Famous to Get Fully Dressed” as the genesis stone that inspired 2011’s The Spade. And if the agile string arrangements and sunny guitar solos of “The Taste of Red”—which boasts the record’s most blissful hook—didn’t lead to the Beatles pop pomp of 2010’s I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart, then the resemblance was certainly still obvious enough for Butch to make it a live show staple during that era.

Of all the Butch Walker albums, The Rise and Fall is the most dynamic, if only because it concludes in a completely different place than where it starts. Storming out of the gate with loud, early-1970s flamboyance, this record somehow finds its way from the decadent party scene of Los Angeles to the sun-soaked valleys and arches of Laurel Canyon. The conclusion of the trip is hinted at in the balladic penultimate track, “This is the Sweetest Little Song,” a delicate lullaby awash in falsetto vocals, relaxed acoustic chords, and yet another string arrangement. But instead of ending the record on a gentle note, Walker saves the best and most ambitious song for last. “When the Canyons Ruled the City” is a ringing 1970s singer/songwriter anthem, complete with a rafter-raising sing-along refrain and verses that personify the canyons of Hollywood Hills. It’s not an idea that sounds strong on paper, and in lesser hands—or in pretty much any other hands this side of Laurel Canyon natives like Dawes—the song wouldn’t work at all. But thanks to Butch’s oft-present hint of sarcasm and a dramatic, larger-than-life vocal delivery, we can buy into a tale of Laurel as a girl who was “pretty hip in younger years,” or Beachwood as a “boheme from the sexy ‘60s scene,” and the arguments the two often have “on the terms of selling out.” It’s a patent ‘70s stoner anthem, transplanted to an album that came out in 2006, written and sung by a guy who was born at the tail end of the ‘60s and grew up enthralled with ‘80s hair metal. In short, it’s a song full of contradictions, but by the time it reaches its triumphant, Queen-sized climax, it’s hard to imagine anything sounding more authentic. It’s no surprise fans still yell for “Canyons” at the end of every Butch Walker encore.

I remember the day this record arrived in my mailbox, the first album I had ever gotten my hands on prior to the release date. I remember blasting these songs on repeat—in sequence, on shuffle, whatever—for days and weeks straight. I remember the night of August 1st that year, the night Butch came to Detroit on a 110-degree day and stormed onstage to the opening riff of “Hot Girls in Good Moods.” To say this album means a lot to me is an understatement. It captures that summer—a snapshot of my youth, a parade of long, hot days, filled with promise and the best soundtrack imaginable—and refuses to let it go, even seven years on. I think that’s why The Rise and Fall of Butch Walker and the Lets-Go-Out-Tonites! is still my brother’s favorite Butch Walker album. We built memories around this record, around playing it religiously and around seeing Butch live for the first time, that we’ve been trying to duplicate ever since, with every record we share and every live show we take in together. When I hear these songs, they remind me of him and how, as brothers five and a half years apart in age, we found connection and shared some of the happiest moments of our lives through music. And I know that sounds cheesy and overly sentimental, but that’s what music can do: it can give us the best of ourselves when we’re alone and broken and the best of the people around us when we’re sharing a triumphant moment with others. At different times, Butch’s music has consoled me in solitude and soundtracked communal euphoria, and The Rise and Fall is absolutely his most communal record to date. If you’ve overlooked this one in the past, listen again.

9.5/10

Additional InformationPersonnel: Butch Walker: vocals, additional guitars, additional bass, piano, organ, percussion Michael Guy Chislett: guitar, keyboards, claps, backing vocals
Darren Dodd: drums, percussion, backing vocals, claps
Randy Michael: acoustic guitars
Wes Flowers: Hammond organ, keys
James Hall: backing vocals, piano, trumpet, harmonica
Dr. Brad Goron: horn section
Page Waldrop: pedal steel
Yvette Petit: backing vocals
Alecia "Pink" Moore: guest vocals on “Song Without a Chorus”

Track Listing:
01. Oooh...Aaah
02. Hot Girls In Good Moods
03. Ladies And Gentlemen...The Let's-Go-Out-Tonites!
04. Bethamphetamine (Pretty, Pretty)
05. Too Famous To Get Fully Dressed
06. We're All Going Down
07. Dominoes
08. Paid To Get Excited
09. Song Without A Chorus (feat. Pink)
10. The Taste Of Red
11. Rich People Die Unhappy
12. This Is The Sweetest Little Song
13. When The Canyons Ruled The City

All Songs Written and Produced by Butch Walker
 
Displaying posts 1 - 8 of 8
06:47 AM on 09/12/13
#2
Skinkie
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.....uh oh
First Butch album being Letters after downloading Mixtape?
Eagerly anticipating Rise and Fall as your first new Butch release?
Pumped to get the album a couple days before release?
Attending that unbearably hot Detroit concert?
....you and me may actually be the same person....

One exception though, this is far from overlooked with the people I know, it actually tends to be one of the favorites. Until the release of The Spade it was usually my go to for a rocking Butch record (even if it quiets down a bit as it goes). Canyons is still one of my most favorite tracks

But on a more important note, boy was that concert hot. When he came blasting out on stage and had the bartenders shoot water out over the audience was the only relief that whole night. Good show, but you could tell he was a bit over heated up there, and who could blame him (also opener As Fast As was fantastic and Spencer Albee is great in everything he does). Next time he came through I saw him in Grand Rapids instead, that's pretty much been my gold standard for Butch shows (although for the Spade tour I saw him in Ft. Lauderdale, and that at least tied if not surpassed it). What's everyone else's favorite Butch show?
07:13 AM on 09/12/13
#3
Craig Manning
Down in Jungleland
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.....uh oh
First Butch album being Letters after downloading Mixtape?
Eagerly anticipating Rise and Fall as your first new Butch release?
Pumped to get the album a couple days before release?
Attending that unbearably hot Detroit concert?
....you and me may actually be the same person....

One exception though, this is far from overlooked with the people I know, it actually tends to be one of the favorites. Until the release of The Spade it was usually my go to for a rocking Butch record (even if it quiets down a bit as it goes). Canyons is still one of my most favorite tracks

But on a more important note, boy was that concert hot. When he came blasting out on stage and had the bartenders shoot water out over the audience was the only relief that whole night. Good show, but you could tell he was a bit over heated up there, and who could blame him (also opener As Fast As was fantastic and Spencer Albee is great in everything he does). Next time he came through I saw him in Grand Rapids instead, that's pretty much been my gold standard for Butch shows (although for the Spade tour I saw him in Ft. Lauderdale, and that at least tied if not surpassed it). What's everyone else's favorite Butch show?
Haha, that's awesome. That concert almost killed me. And there were still dumbasses chain smoking cigarettes so the temperature could climb a bit higher. I don't think I've ever smelled worse than I did coming out of that venue. But damn, The Rise and Fall material was so great live, and I think that's the best "piano time" I've ever seen. "Joan" was stunning that night, and I don't think he's played "Dominoes" since that tour, but something about the heat made those songs that much more great. Somehow got everyone to shut up for a few songs.

As Fast As remains the best opener I've ever seen. I never really got into their independent records, but Open Letter is a favorite of mine. I remember searching for months for a recording of the ukelele cover of "Creep," but I never found it.

My brother and I have done Detroit and Grand Rapids on back to back nights a few times. He hasn't come to GR in awhile though. Is the Mixtape Cafe still open?
07:29 AM on 09/12/13
#4
Skinkie
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My brother and I have done Detroit and Grand Rapids on back to back nights a few times. He hasn't come to GR in awhile though. Is the Mixtape Cafe still open?

Hmmmm, not sure . I was there when Butch played for its opening, but I don't think I've heard anything of it since.(If I google it though lots of stuff comes up, probably a good sign) Grand Rapids was a bit of a drive for me, so I tended to avoid it if I could hit a show somewhere else

As Fast As remains the best opener I've ever seen. I never really got into their independent records, but Open Letter is a favorite of mine. I remember searching for months for a recording of the ukelele cover of "Creep," but I never found it.

Locksley was pretty great as well, love them. For Spencer, if you can track down a copy of it (I think Bull Moose records website may be the only was to do so) his Spencer and the School Spirit Mafia album is fantastic, as is the solo album he put out in June (under artist name Spencer, album name Spencer, this one is on iTunes and stuff too).
07:34 AM on 09/12/13
#5
Craig Manning
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Hmmmm, not sure . I was there when Butch played for its opening, but I don't think I've heard anything of it since.(If I google it though lots of stuff comes up, probably a good sign) Grand Rapids was a bit of a drive for me, so I tended to avoid it if I could hit a show somewhere else
I saw him twice at the Mixtape, once on the Sycamore tour and once on the I Liked You Better... stint. He only played Detroit for The Spade, and it looks like the same for this tour.
08:09 AM on 09/12/13
#6
Chris Fallon
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I'll never understand why this album gets no love from most BW fans. The energetic first half is a ton of fun and the back half segues right into his next album. Maybe it's too unbalanced for people. The back half of the album isn't quite as energetic, but provides foreshadowing for where he was aiming to go the next couple records.

Good write-up -- you hit the nail on the head and hope you inspire more people to give this a better listen.
09:41 AM on 09/12/13
#7
Craig Manning
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I'll never understand why this album gets no love from most BW fans. The energetic first half is a ton of fun and the back half segues right into his next album. Maybe it's too unbalanced for people. The back half of the album isn't quite as energetic, but provides foreshadowing for where he was aiming to go the next couple records.

Good write-up -- you hit the nail on the head and hope you inspire more people to give this a better listen.
I think I actually like the back half more, as much fun as the more energetic parts are. Butch doing country and folk music was such a huge revelation to me at the time, and I'm so glad he's continued exploring that part of his sound. Probably my favorite thing about Peachtree Battle is how folky is is.

Thanks for reading! I'll be interested to see what people say about this one. Letters is pretty much an automatic home run for everyone who likes Butch at all, but I think reactions to this one are far more varied.
04:24 PM on 09/12/13
#8
irthesteve
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I like this record, some really great tracks on here and I always appreciate an album that can be cohesive but diverse, think this does it well. Overall though, not a LOVE record for me
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