eemingly centuries ago, David Mcalmont and Bernard Butler first formed their partnership (OK so it was only in 1994). Mcalmont was the former singer in Thieves with a voice in equal parts taking cues from Curtis Mayfield, Jeff Buckley and Morrissey. Bernard Butler was the prodigiously gifted guitarist behind Suede’s meteoric rise and, particularly on their album Dog Man Star made music of which even his idol Johnny Marr would be proud. Unfortunately they only stayed together long enough to release two singles, the second, “You Do” was pleasant enough but it was their debut; “Yes” which was most impressive. As good a single as any released in the entire decade, the string laden anthem was as near to the perfect pop song as you are likely to hear, never before or since has a “fuck you” addressed to a former lover been expressed so majestically. The partnership sadly finished soon after, The Sound of Mcalmont and Butler album that followed was unsatisfying, padded out by distinctly average b-sides. Neither it nor the snipes at each other in the media that followed it are what they should be remembered by.
Motivated probably more by their faltering solo careers than a particular desire to enhance their legacy, the duo has returned. Bring it Back may well have come about by more dubious reasons than the “I was writing songs that had to be sung by David” that Butler offers but that does not stop it achieving some monumental highs.
Opening with “The Theme From ‘Mcalmont and Butler’” the pair try their hand at blaxploitation with resounding success. It is difficult to think of any other act capable of producing music like it at the moment. The single that preceded the album, “Falling”, follows. In the same vein as “Yes”, though not quite the same class, it remains an unashamedly upbeat and above all excellent pop tune.
The first half of this record is consistently sensational. “Can We Make It?” shakes like prime era Motown. Also, “Different Strokes” may be too late to take its rightful place as song of the summer but it is still begging to be a future single and will spread bliss wherever it is heard with its breezy verse and mammoth chorus. Despite all this sky scraping, extravagance is not embedded into their music. “Blue” is an understated acoustic number showing Butler’s guitar playing to be as strong as it ever was.
Regrettably there is a clear turning point in this record after the superb title track. The final four songs retain a degree of the flair that is so entrenched in the pair’s music, but to a lesser extent than what has gone before. “Sunny Boy” in particular is Mcalmont & Butler by numbers and, although competent, it definitely lacks spark.
Musical marriages of convenience can often sound contrived and self-serving. This is not an accusation that can be levelled at Bring it Back. Mcalmont and Butler have found a niche in the market between sleazy pop and so-called “Adult” music, long may they continue.
Reviewed by: Jon Monks
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01