Review: Ezekiel Butler
Things may be terrible at the moment but there may just be a ray of light around the corner. That's what springs to Stephen Morris' mind as he reviews unsigned Gloucestershire band 'Ezekiel Butler'.
A couple of years ago you may remember me banging on about a rather marvellous band by the name of Earnest Cox.
The band were just that: a band.
There was no member of the band called Earnest. Or Cox. In fact, the name derived from a misspelling of the name of a Gloucester-based firm of funeral directors.
Now, the band are on something of an extended hiatus. Mark and Simon are busy with their other London based band, Datapuddle, promoting their album 'MonkeySkyMonkey' which is very, very good.
A Band Not a Boy (Part II)
All this is a round about way of saying that a vacancy has sprung up for a band with a man's name for a moniker.
Enter Ezekiel Butler.
Whether they too are named after a local funeral director's firm is yet to be clarified.
What can be confirmed though is that Ezekiel Butler have a silky smooth sound - the perfect soundtrack to Autumn as the nights draw in.
The songs are filled with memories (both happy and sad), along with an impressive sense of musicianship and well crafted lyrics.
Under the Influence
The band lay claim to influences such as Fleetwood Mac and Cat Stevens.
While this is undoubtedly true, there are shades of other sounds as diverse as The Carpenters, The Beautiful South and The Wondermints.
There are even elements that sound like the more instrumentally dense tracks on Nick Drake's albums.
All these sounds can be heard in just three tracks currently available on the band's MySpace page.
'One Regret' is a piano heavy track that considers the theme of sorrow.
Like many songs that share this theme, the weather is the default metaphor: "Goodbye my blue sky/here's only stormy weather" runs one of the closing lines.
Despite all the sadness, there remains a ray of hope with the fast moving piano part and lyrics like "You and I will learn to survive that one regret".
The result is a combination of poignancy and hope which typifies all of EB's work.
Ferry Cross the Mersey
'Liverpool' is a love song to the city of that name. At times, it sounds like they're reading out of a tour guide: "There's music in malls and you might know the tunes/where the foursome were fab in the cavernous rooms".
Although, if you want directions to the Beatles' home town, you might want to consult your sat-nav over Ezekiel Butler.
I'm no geographer but I'm not sure that saying "There's a place to the North and it's just west of East" is quite accurate.
Of Rainbows and White Elephants
Meanwhile it is the first track to be found on the band's MySpace page that has the fullest and most mature sound.
"Chelsea Calling" is not, as it name may suggest, an exclusive version of a Clash song.
Instead, it introduces the themes of dreams and regrets found elsewhere in Ezekiel Butler's work.
There's much talk of time wasted ("The time you spend on all your white elephants") and the lyrics are tinged with the sadness of a man who has never quite been able to achieve his dreams. Well, not yet, anyway.
Despite all the melancholy, there is a feeling that, once again, maybe things can get better.
Maybe it's the gentle piano accompaniment, maybe it's the harmonies of the singers.
Maybe it's lyrics like "I wanna paint rainbows on the wall", but there is definitely a sense of all not being lost.
Elsewhere on the track, the lyrics are a little less decipherable and a bit more confused.
Anyone who can understand what is meant by "they're just one pair of boots/another hole in my pants" deserves some kind of small prize - if only I could think of one to give.
The music on all these tracks is beautifully crafted, like some ornate piece of artwork.
There's a gentle feel to it which will doubtless appeal to fans of Fleetwood Mac and Cat Stevens, the band's primary point of reference.
But as with all good music. Things are not as straightforward as they seem.
For all the sunny sounding harmonies, there lies just a little bit of darkness that gives the band an extra edge.
Throughout Ezekiel Butler's output there are duel messages at work: things may be terrible at the moment, but there may just be some ray of light around the corner.
Perhaps all is not lost after all.
This article is an external contribution and expresses a personal opinion, not necessarily the views of the BBC.
last updated: 15/01/2009 at 09:53