The Truth You Think I Stole
Review by Kent Manthie
The latest album by Butterfield, The Truth You Think I Stole is a melange of tunes dealing with love, angst, self-immolation, metaphorically speaking, after a bittersweet battle for truth and clarity.
Written by singer/songwriter Michael Butterfield, this album is the result of an opportunity to reunite with former bandmates.
Originally from Richmond, Virginia, Butterfield is now based in the San Francisco Bay Area, not only the best place on earth, but a very good place to be for a musician and or artist. So many like-minded souls around and lots more freedom of expression and freedom to be yourself. Tolerant, iconoclastic, one-of-a-kind – these things all describe not only the area itself, but the styles of music, writing, poetry, art and even the people themselves.
This album, The Truth You Think I Stole has also given Butterfield a chance to reunite with his friends and bandmates. On The Truth You Think I Stole, Michael, himself, plays guitar and bass as well as doing vocal duties. Kyle Crosby plays keyboards and Jeffrey Schaeffer plays drums. They play quite well together; tight; the album’s moody and tuneful harmonization is something that had to be done by people who had something invested in the outcome – I’m not talking about financial gains here, but the sense of accomplishing a great album that grabs you by the shirt, shakes you a little and shouts at you: “HEY, You have to hear this!”
As described, you’d think I was talking about a deep, hard, maybe metal or aggro style, based on anger, power, right-wing tendencies and a front of faux suffering as in so much of what is called “nu-metal”. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Michael has written a handful of soulful, enchanting and straight-ahead rock tunes. They’re neither black metal, “Cannibal Corpse” style aggression nor is it a neo-folk album with intricate ballads of what was to be and what never was, etc. No, this is music that I refuse to put into a box, although, the overall genre is “rock”.
It’s not the fast, pent-up emotion rock or electronica-dance music that all the kids are listening to these days. Butterfield really strikes some great, catchy chords that resonate long after the album is over. Over the first listen, one gets the general sense of where Butterfield is going, you start absorbing the music as well as the lyrics. As with many new bands, that are seemingly playing new kinds of stuff (which is really not the case, it’s just that Michael has taken a style that is not unique but he’s put his own individual stamp on it). As a matter of fact, as I listen to The Truth You Think I Stole, the vibe that I’ve started to pick up is a more acoustic, less bombastic version of Alice in Chains (before Layne Staley died), when they had gotten over the idea that they were going to be a metal band right as metal was on its way down the toilet. OK, so it’s not as dark and despondent as, say, Dirt was – but the two acoustic EPs that AIC did, Jar of Flies and Sap are surely analogs to the attitude on The Truth You Think I Stole.
Going through some of the songs on here – they’re all quite good and it’s incredibly hard to pick out one or two that stand out more so than others, but one that does stay with you for a while is the last cut, “Tomorrow”, obviously because it’s the closing song, but it’s really emotional and has a plaintive, jarring sensibility to it that, when the album’s done, stays with you for a while, making you think “Wow. This is unbelievably professional” (i.e., not something that you’d expect from a DIY production) The production value has a great sheen to it, one that makes you think of quality studio work, a close eye on engineering, mixing and produced by Butterfield to his own standards of quality. He knew what he wanted and how to go about getting the result. And the result is a fabulous record that is somewhat underwhelming in terms of the lack of hype, marketing or (thank gawd) radio play (the death-knell of indie verity and sincerity).
Some other songs worth mentioning are “Treason”, “Tied & Bound” and “Not the One”. Another thing about The Truth You Think I Stole is that if you wish, you can pick out a song here and there, that inspires you at the moment and just listen to it apart from the album as a whole, something that other albums aren’t meant for – there are many seamless, “concept” albums, etc. that are just meant to be played in one sitting, all at once and if you happen to play just one song from it, you take it out of the context of the record as a whole. Not so, with The Truth You Think I Stole. That doesn’t make it any less worthy or great as a whole itself. It’s just as rewarding to listen to this album in its entirety. But that is something that’s up to the individual listener; I don’t mean, for a minute, to suggest that there should be any “singles” released apart from this CD. No, no, no. I only meant that if you have a hankering to hear “Revelation” or “Tomorrow” by itself, it would not be like reading a paragraph straight out of a treatise on existentialism or a novel where every detail counts. No, it’d be more like opening a volume of poetry and picking out one of your favorite poems in there and reading it. In the latter case, it’s not necessary to go through the whole volume of collected poems (whether by Rimbaud, Keats or Lawrence Ferlinghetti) to enjoy one poem that stands tall by itself, isolated from the rest.
Does that make sense? I really hope it does. It should, if you’ve been in the throes of musical addiction for quite some time.
By the bye, The Truth You Think I Stole is a wonderful album and it came to me as a surprise, not having heard of Butterfield before. And, honestly, I looked and looked around the internet to find something – anything – that would give me more substance to add to this, to find out more about the man and his music and what makes him tick. But, in the absence of that, I had to just go with what I felt inside, from listening to this album of self-awareness, reflection, hopefulness and ever-changing moods. -KM.