Posted by Alex on January 18, 2008 at 9:30 pm in News

The Butterfly

This post is set to publish at the time when The Butterfly take to the stage for their last show. I don’t think the final curtain for The Butterfly could have passed without me saying something about it. Or without us, that is, me and Dave, saying something about it. It’s maybe a bit long, but I think necessarily, so you’ll have to click on more to see it all. They will hopefully be releasing two records with us posthumously. These are, of course, much anticipated.

The Butterfly’s music is utterly unique, the cause of much foundering for reference points by journalists and promoters alike. Jump cutting innumerable genres and ideas effortlessly, its bold, arch and confident eclecticism is never cynical and always clever – from a throughly insane racket to a graceful chord change. Songs were stunningly worked, fully equipped with a nuanced sense of dynamics, a wink to grand theatre and an eye for pop. Each and every one is piled high with sheer invention. It is an uncompromising musical vision, an awkward fit to any pigeon hole or scene you would attempt to ram them into.

I’ve often said that the best bands create their own worlds, worlds that fire the imagination. The Butterfly founded their own musical universe: whole solar systems of obscure pop-culture references, galaxies of philosophical puns, star systems of Russian novelists, nebulae of sarcastic riffs. In the hands of lesser bands both the postmodern music and the lyrical references would have seemed overly ironic, throw-away and forced, but with The Butterfly they took flight. As Sam Saunders put it, the “collage is breathtaking. And, damn it, it’s FUN without, for a moment, being a piss take. The band love all this stuff with a righteous vengeance”. Yet, while they wrote lyrics about Freud and Camus, both these lyrics and others less tied to rigourous intertextuality are at their centre about the big open-hearted themes of human comings and goings: love and loss, of course, but also family relationships, environmental fears and existential dread.

Whenever someone asks me what The Butterfly sound like I would always have to respond with a complex metaphor or a legion of adjectives. Like Radiohead run by bad drugs, Guitar Hero and iron fillings. Like Caravaggio as a band. Like Talking Heads eating Clouddead, with a side-order of Slayer, sprinkled with Sparks. Whatever description was proffered, and however close I came to hitting the mark, the actual brilliance of the band eluded words – how was one ever going to cram it all in? The vocal harmonies and everything? In the end, I simply had to say: go listen and go see.

It was in the go see, in the live arena, that The Butterfly really came into their own. I don’t think in almost four years I’ve ever seen them play a bad show, soldiering on through technical difficulties and static crowd indifference. Everything they did live was shot through with a vein of deep passion, infectious enthusiasm and a sense of elated fun absent in so many acts. Whether they were playing to a rammed crowd in a cellar, or, in some cases, to an empty room, they played as if it was the end of time itself. And they played brilliantly: sets coursing with memorable moments throughout a repertoire of colossal songs that were constantly changing, morphing and being re-invented. As a group of people too, it almost goes without saying that they were and are generous, warm and incredibly kind, people I am very glad to call my friends.

So goodbye to The Butterfly, and thank you, you’ll be sadly missed. Whatever you go onto and whatever the future holds, musically or otherwise, I am sure it will be inspired.

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