CD Review: Butch Walker “I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart”

Now four decades old and a father, Butch Walker is back with his follow up to 2008’s “Sycamore Meadows” (reviewed here). On his latest, “I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart”, Walker struts through more than four decades of musical genres and styles to produce another eclectic collection of unique tunes.

Despite the twisting and twirling of genres, the one thing that Walker strives to remain devoted to is having a good time with a good melody. To that end, “I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart” is modestly successful, but what stands out as a stronger plus is the marvelous production – from the weepy strings on “Don’t You Think Someone Should Take You Home” to the gleeful harmonies on “House of Cards” – the record should be textbook for sonic quality. But the common criticism long time fans have of Walker – that his songs are not as strong as they used to be – is not remedied on this release…and no matter how hard you try to decorate a mediocre song, it’s still a mediocre song.

Things get off to a reasonable start with catchy pop rockers like “Trash Day” and the aptly named “Pretty Melody”, and the excellent ballad “Don’t You Think Someone Should Take You Home”. Then the record descends into a valley of slow tunes that make C-SPAN look exciting. But like a team that got yelled at during half-time, Walker comes out swinging at the start of the second half with several consecutive goodies. The autobiographical fun of “She Likes Hair Bands” and the sunny melodies on “House of Cards” make these two instantly likable. The album closes with “Be Good Until Then”, a sparse acoustic Walker-styled lullaby that no father could dislike.

Since “Letters”, Walker has evolved into a singer/songwriter that knows no musical boundary. Many of his compositions end up working brilliantly when he stays focused on a strong hook, but I am with the fan who remains disappointed that he’s not been able to deliver something as masterful as his work with Marvelous 3 or even his first solo outing, “Left of Self-Centered”. Walker has the ‘Midas Touch’ in the music business, writing songs and producing hits for everyone from Pink to Avril Lavigne to Dashboard Confessional. “I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart” was written and recorded in just 5 days. It boggles the mind to think of the type of solo record he could create if he weren’t spread so thin.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 11

Butch Walker on MySpace. Official site.