The Voluntary Butler Scheme - The Grandad Galaxy (Split)

Very accomplished second outing for The Voluntary Butler Scheme

Released Jul 18th, 2011 via Split / By Mark Beckett
The Voluntary Butler Scheme - The Grandad Galaxy (Split) With his second full-length album, bedroom/basement producer, multi-instrumentalist and three minute pop song engineer Rob Jones a.k.a. The Voluntary Butler Scheme has crafted a record bursting with jovial melody and whimsical delights. It's everything from country, rhythm & blues, jazz, funk and pop, which is chopped up, scattered around in its own unique constellation and released into a new world, a world where past and present nod heads in perfect harmony, whilst Bo Diddley plays swingball with DJ Shadow under the setting sun.

Given that it derived from a load of songs Jones had recorded and despised, which he promptly went at with a pair of scissors and a pritt stick (or the technological equivalent at least), there would be no surprise if a shower of DJ Shadow comparisons ensue. 'Do The Hand Jive' for example is a dizzy mishmash of vocal samples, one of which being an a capella performed on the spot by his girlfriend and recorded on his iPhone. Having said that, this is not a sporadic assemblage of noise and ill-fitting instrumentation, it's engineered with an acute sense of appropriation, and a commendable disregard for coming over too syrupy. The syrup is quite delicious actually.

In fact, it's the syrupy qualities of The Grandad Galaxy that are the most appealing. The innocence that radiates from its 50s and 60s pop influences is something that could be batted off as lazy or looking too far back, yet The Voluntary Butler Scheme has merely extracted its exuberance and free spirit, thus delighting those who wish to revel in it and leaving behind those who wish to scratch their chins in time to an 'interesting' b-side. 'Shake Me by the Shoulders' with its drowsy bass and stabby piano chords could be an early Kinks hit and is all the better for it, better still is that it isn't disguised as looking back to move forward, which is the excuse of choice for many a modern indie band, it's just an honest amalgamation of all the music he's ever made and has ever wanted to make.

It's this shamelessness that paves the way for such a pleasing album, because with shamelessness comes limitlessness. If he wants to open an album with a Run DMC infused ballerina music box track he will, and has done in 'Hiring a Car', similarly if he wants to make a track which fuses Buddy Holly with Grandmaster Flash he will, and has done so on The Grandad Galaxy, on many a wondrous occasion.

Paradoxical music sourcing aside, cut-and-paste production is as open as anything in the songwriting world and it can get messy, there's only so much marriage of sound our little ears can take. This record however, has tied every single element up quite neatly in the fact that it all sounds quite delightful on a hot summers day, with every single sound contributing to its playful feel. Which is where it deviates from the darker soundscapes of DJ Shadow and hones in on the themes of The Avalanches' 2000 album Since I left You. The funky riffs of 'To The Height of a Frisbee' are just begging to be played out of the bedroom window. It's music to crack open a warm bitter to, sat on a cracked plastic garden chair.

On top of its musical themes of summer and its timely July release, the album also contains a host of unashamedly innocent lyrics. Lines such as "Since you said that my cold heart needs microwaving, I'm saving all my love for you," on the beautifully layered 'Stone' are only enhanced by Jones' graceful West Midlands accent. His words can be modestly life-affirming in a very homely manner and the mixture of causticity and seriousness make them all the more dynamic.

Being surrounded by chirpy summer songs, when the music adopts a more pensive tone it mutiplies the intensity. The dreamy 'Phosphor Burn-In' with its anguished backing vocals and weeping strings and 'Manuals' with its hollywood love story aura are two of the album's highlights.

"I've been looking for a little more elbow room and I think I've found it," The VBS proclaims on the cosmic 'Astro'. In the song he cites the moon as the place in question, but he could be referring the Grandad Galaxy, a utopian galaxy where the sun constantly shines, where a flat cap sits on the same shelf as a flat peak cap, where horn sections are perfectly acceptable on pop songs and people are uninterested in 'interesting' b-sides. How we would all like to visit some day. In the meantime it's 20 year old wonky garden chairs flat beer and The Grandad Galaxy playing from the bedroom window. Suits us fine.