Butcher Boy - Helping Hands (5 stars)

Butcher Boy - Helping Hands

From strength to strength, without fanfare or fuss

(Damaged Goods)

Butcher Boy’s John Blain Hunt has a habit of taking your breath away with words. Three albums into the band’s career, he’s still that brilliant; Helping Hands filled to the brim with the beautifully crafted, poetic storytelling the Glasgow seven-piece are now renowned for. And musically they’ve never been better, as instrumentation and song structure are played with to spellbinding effect throughout – Moog synths and drum machines now nestling alongside sumptuous strings, flute, pianos and shimmering guitars.

This isn’t just experimentation for the sake of it though, creating the perfect indie pop song is still at the heart of what Butcher Boy do. ‘I Am The Butcher’, ‘The Day Our Voices Broke’, ‘Imperial’, ‘Your Cousins And I’ and the title track are just a few of this record’s highlights and are easily among the finest the band have ever penned. From strength to strength, without fanfare or fuss.

Helping Hands by Butcher Boy

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1. Alastair Duncan17 Apr 2012, 7:17pm Report

A second count, to allow for the Deuchars, suggested that the initial estimate was correct: there were indeed 64 people watching Butcher Boy play. Ironic, that of all venues, it is here at the Pleasance that Edinburgh should fail to show interest in and support for performers of genuine quality. The people of Edinburgh will, in their droves, have paid much more for much less.

But the sparseness and consequent reserve of the crowd only made more personal what are already very intimate songs. This was a performance of the highest quality. The songs are beautifully arranged. Like Tindersticks and Belle & Sebastian strings and keyboards are not mere backing instruments. They are used sparingly and with purpose and the overall effect, especially from the cello, is at times extremely haunting. The stand-outs were perhaps I Am The Butcher and Helping Hands from the album of the same name. Those who own that album and who turned out on Saturday are likely to think they witnessed something quite special. It can only be hoped that the band, and also the excellent support The Sea Shanties, can be persuaded to make a repeat visit and perhaps find someone to publicise it this time. And perhaps with a larger audience, the band will be able to avoid the drunken enthusiasts in the bar afterwards.

2. Alastair Duncan19 Apr 2012, 11:41pm Report

The support band were in fact the Stormy Seas. They were also very good, even if in the post-gig haze their name had not been accurately recorded in my head.

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