CD Review of Black Butterfly by Buckcherry
Recommended if you like
Velvet Revolver, Audioslave,
Sixx: A.M.
Label
Atlantic/Eleven Seven
Buckcherry:
Black Butterfly

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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W
ait, weren’t these guys just in the Top 10 a few months ago? Yes, but they’re no dummies – when you’ve had a hit, flamed out, broken up, and turned a reunion record that no one asked for into platinum, you’d damn well better strike while the iron is hot, and with Black Butterfly, Buckcherry hopes to extend its second lease on life.

In theory, this band shouldn’t even exist; the Sunset Strip-inspired sleaze metal Buckcherry performs went out of fashion in the early ‘90s, around the time power ballads stopped being effective catnip for Top 40 radio programmers. Their big 2008 hit, “Sorry,” lies in the polluted middle ground between Cinderella and Winger, and the fact that it ever played anywhere outside of pool halls in Oklahoma makes it one of the weirder success stories of the year. One of the most satisfying, too – even if the song itself isn’t much to write home about, there’s something undeniably entertaining about a pack of guitar-toting, long-haired party hounds turning a plea for more tail into a hit single. Feels like old times, doesn’t it?

The members of Buckcherry want it to, anyway – and every so often, listening to Black Butterfly will take you back to that late ‘80s sweet spot where pop and metal bumped uglies to create a handful of well-crafted, unabashedly glossy rock & roll records. They started off aping Toys in the Attic-era Aerosmith, but since the reunion, Buckcherry has stayed closer to Appetite for Destruction-era Guns ‘n’ Roses – meaning that during both phases of their career, they’ve chosen to steal from unimpeachable sources. It’s one thing to love old Aerosmith and G‘n’R, though; it’s quite another to try and bring that fuck-anything, drink-everything vibe into the 21st century.

There are probably dozens of problems with the band’s approach, but we’ll look at two: One, casual sex and drinking to excess are no longer the badges of honor they used to be; and two, the modern recording process tends to make rock records sound like shit. More power to singer Josh Todd for being able to “put booty on layaway,” but hearing someone scream about being “too drunk to fuck” a stripper just doesn’t provoke longing for the rock & roll lifestyle the way it used to – much as the band cranks up the volume and tries to swagger, there’s an undercurrent of misery beneath these songs that dampens the party vibe. And even when the songs themselves work, Marti Frederiksen and Keith Nelson’s production refuses to do them any favors: Black Butterfly lacks the dynamic range and warmth it needs to really get cooking. The compression-at-all-costs approach is irritating enough on a pop album, but when you’re listening to a hard rock band that operates at essentially one speed – fast and loud – it borders on the nonsensical. Listening to this album at high volume may make diehard rock fans weep for the death of Bruce Fairbairn all over again.

Then again, Buckcherry doesn’t really need to worry about old rock fans as much as they need to appeal to new ones, and in the context of what’s on offer in 2008, Black Butterfly isn’t any worse than anything from Disturbed or Hinder, which is probably about where Buckcherry needs to be. It’s loud enough, it’s fast enough, and it’s got a power ballad or two – and if none of it is especially memorable, well, songs like these are meant to provide the soundtrack for nights you can’t remember the next morning anyway, right?

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