Butch Walker has been the producer of the moment for the past couple of years, having produced tracks for Avril Lavigne, American Hi-Fi and Sevendust, among others. And now this former Marvelous 3 frontman offers his second solo album. Letters is a radio-friendly pop record that will disappoint fans looking for another Marvelous 3 album, but will certainly please those who are looking for a catchy record that is not cheesy (Jojo), bland (Simple Plan, Yellowcard) or unnaturally generic (3 Doors Down).
“Maybe It’s Just Me” will make any Marvelous 3 fan weep, as it sounds like a anemic version of “Freak of the Weak” from Hey! Album. It is this catchy pop sound that Walker relies on heavily throughout Letters.
“#1 Summer Jam” further proves that Walker is relying on simplistic, catchy, here-today-gone-tomorrow rhythms and choruses. The song could very well be a #1 summer jam, complete with a sing-along chorus about trying to get a girl to come back to him. It’s a step above LFO’s “Summer Girls.” Yeah, it’s that bad.
Walker does redeem himself on the piano-ballad “Joan,” which sounds a lot like Ben Folds’s “Fred Jones Pt 2.” It’s a character study, like “Fred Jones Pt. 2,” but it is a lot darker, involving a box of letters from Joan to a fling in Colorado about her abusive boyfriend. Walker brilliantly illustrates how devastating an abusive relationship can be: “The last letter said/That she had to get out/But I couldn’t make out the rest of the note/From the blood stains all over the page of the letters.” It is one of the most haunting songs I have ever heard.
It was evident that Butch Walker was becoming more radio-friendly when you heard the songs he produced for Avril Lavigne and American Hi-Fi, including “My Happy Ending” by the former. Letters is not a bad album. But for me, being a Marvelous 3 fan, it took a few listens to even remotely warm up to the more-pop-less-rock version of Walker, and I’m still not fully into it yet. And I don’t see myself fully enjoying this album any time soon. Cutting ties with the rest of the band took away the edge that made Walker one of the best rockers of the late ’90s. Walker still has his producing and songwriting abilities to fall back on, which is nothing to balk at. But it seems that Walker is missing the edge to try something new and different. He is comfortable in the safety of pop music, which makes for a good sound but nothing quite like what he had with the Marvelous 3.
Butch Walker: www.butchwalker.com