How Does It Feel To Be Loved?
An indiepop record label


For reviews of "The Kids At The Club" go here
For reviews of "Profit In Your Poetry" by Butcher Boy go here
For reviews of "Fill Up The Room" by Saturday Looks Good To Me go here
For reviews of "The Penguin League" by Antarctica Takes It! go here


Reviews of "React Or Die" by Butcher Boy


Scottish outfit Butcher Boy came to us (and a BTW stamp) via the aptly titled Profit In Your Poetry LP. That set sat comfortably under the family tree rooted by the likes of Belle & Sebatian, Tindersticks, Felt, and the Smiths, lining up shot after shot of bittersweet and literate, orchestral Glaswegian indie pop. Their forthcoming followup's called React Or Die, and true to that titular urgency, its first sounds push the line a little further: lyricist, lead Butcher (and National Pop League stalwart) John Blain Hunt couches his love-scenic couplets in more of B&S's bounce, but there's a cleaner spark to the piano-and-cello-laced production and to the hook's shifty chord changes, complex in its tune and mood. Again, bitter albeit sweet, and again, very promising.


I recently got this pre-order in the mail from the How does it feel to be loved-label, and I loved it instantly. Butcher Boy’s previous album “Profit in your poetry” was “almost there” for me, – lots of good songs, lovely feeling, but for some reason it never made it to “favourite status”. This one definitely does. It has everything, – the feeling, the melodies, the arrangements, the lyrics… “React or die” is one of those albums that you miss listening to when you’re away from it. The cover art is wonderful, – what an extraordinary photo of something as ordinary as cutting hair. Highly recommended!


Glasgow’s Butcher Boy return with their 2nd LP, again, on London’s How Does It Feel To Be Loved? record label. The band are led by John Blain Hunt and it’s his intelligent lyrical song writing that makes you sit up and take notice when you slip ‘React Or Die’ into your CD player (oh, for a vinyl copy). Butcher Boy’s sound continues in the classic Glasgow vein - think Belle and Sebastian at their most potent. This is pop music that transports you to a sepia tinted world. A world where Morrissey and kitchen sink dramas take centre stage. The sleeve echoes classic Smiths whilst being thoroughly Butcher Boy - they’re becoming very adept at building a world which you can easily slip into. The LP rewards with repeated plays much in the way that their début release did. Picking favourites is hard as the LP sits together as a complete whole. The most notable change is the way the production brings every nuance of the songs to the fore. This is classic indiepop - but this is no low budget recording. ‘React Or Die’ sounds like a labour of love and indeed it has taken a full year to realise. I fear protracted records as it can ultimately lead to an over egging of the cake where what was great about a band is stripped away. Thankfully this isn’t the case here, as every song sounds fully formed and effortlessly made.

Heartache With Hard Work

This new track from Butcher Boy is great. They had a record a couple years ago that I meant to review but never got around to. It was pretty good, but this song is better than anything on it. It comes from the tradition of The Smiths, but there's a cleaner edge to the sound, and a freshness that has a lot more in common with the more recent stuff from Belle and Sebastian.

Another Form Of Relief

As I was preparing to write this, I came across a fact that threw this piece into question. I tend to write these Great British Hopes pieces as a way of talking up the absolute best from all of the new bands I hear. Doing some research on Butcher Boy though, I discovered that they have been playing for 11 years. Which begs the question of whether they can really be hailed as a hope for the future of music. I decided to go with it though, as regardless of their longevity as a band, this is just too damn good.

Butcher Boy have floated around my mind for a while now. A Drowned In Sound review here, the odd promo email there. Even with that though, I never paid them much attention. I got the impression of another Scottish miserablist, and really, a man who already has a complete Arab Strap collection probably can’t take much more. Then the magic phrase appeared. “Compared to Belle & Sebastian” read the email, and I was in.

Not that the end result is Belle & Sebastian exactly. Sure, you can hear those elements in the strings, but this is a band that is more down to the earth. Earnest lyrics sung out by someone who has listened to a lot of Smiths records but doesn’t quite know how to be Morrissey. No, if I were to place this on this indie pop landscape, I’d slot it alongside recent Swedish offerings like Jens Lekman or Pelle Carlberg. The sound is certainly British, but it likes to travel.
This kind of indie pop seems to be short supply in the UK at the moment. Butcher Boy may have formed 11 years ago, but with their second album release in three years, one gets a sense that they may have finally found their way.

Colour Me Impressed

Butcher Boy crafts incredibly sincere symphonic pop songs that call to mind Belle & Sebastian and Felt. Initially these influences may seem distracting, but by the time lead singer John Blain Hunt chirps "you shouldn't be kissing with your eyes closed," you'll find your heart swollen and firmly in place on your shirt sleeve.
Warning: This isn't for the cynics.



The Vinyl Villain

I wrote about Butcher Boy last November and not only someone from the record company leave behind a nice comment, but at least one reader rushed out and ordered the album I was raving about. Well if you're reading this David, I hope you'll be persuaded to shell out some more of your hard-earned cash in a few minutes time...

The thing is, the band don't play live all that often, so when I heard about a gig in the clubhouse of a bowling club some 25 minutes walk from Villain Towers, I made sure I'd be there. It was a show quite like no other. First of all, you had to get your name on a list beforehand (which I did thanks to Comrade Colin) and on arrival you paid as much or as little as you liked as an entry fee. I threw £5 into the Tupperware Box.

There was no warm-up act. Instead an incredibly eclectic mix of music was played through the speakers at a volume that was just enough for you to enjoy yet still hold conversations with the folk you were sitting at your table with. Then at just after 9.30, we got to see a old edition of Top Of The Pops in its introduced by David Jensen and John Peel.

Sad man that I am, I've since checked which particular edition it was (I could find out from the fact that the #1 single - Is There Something I Should Know by Duran Duran was a new entry) - and it turned out was the one that featured the chart for the week ending 26th March 1983). The reason this particular edition being shown pre-gig was this:-
Orange Juice performed Rip It Up (#9 in the chart that week up from #10). Big Country performed Fields Of Fire (#31 up from #34), and......oh be still my beating heart........Altered Images performed Don't Talk To Me About Love (#12 up from #36). Clare rarely looked more gorgeous than she did that you can see for yourself.

When Butcher Boy took to the stage (well....stood in a space in front of us with just the drummer on a very small stage), the first thing I noticed was just many of them there are. Eight performers in total, including a cellist and someone on viola as well as the drums/lead guitar/rhythm guitar/bass/keyboards (oh and during the night other instruments such as a mellotron would be utilised). I thought it was going to be an unholy racket.

I couldnt have been more wrong.

Over the next 45 minutes or so, these eight supremely talented musicians had my total attention as they delivered an outstanding and very distinctive 14-song set.

Much of my love for the band centres around the vocal delivery of John Blain Hunt - there's hints of Bryan Ferry, Lloyd Cole, Stuart Staples and even the great Paul Quinn in his singing. He didn't disappoint, but it was the way that the others performed that brought out just how good a voice he actually has.

Everyone played at the perfect volume so that the instruments you were supposed to hear at a particular point in time were the ones that your ears picked up. Nobody ever indulged in any solos, preferring instead to create a blend of melodies and harmonies that left this particular listener in awe of being in the presence of such aural beauty.

I didn't know more than half of the songs as they were taken from forthcoming LP React Or Die which hits the shops in April, but that didn't stop me deciding on first listen that they were instant classics. Of the songs that I did know from debut LP Profit In Your Poetry, I was left astonished that they sounded better live than they did on record....something I thought would have been a near impossibility.

It was all over just too soon. No encores, but as John himself told me afterwards (yup, I couldn't help but make a beeline for him right at the end to say thank you), it was a show that was going so well that the two songs they had in reserve were incorporated into the main set. I also learned that the rehearsal for the show was the first time Butcher Boy had played outside of a studio environment in 16 months, and I thought to myself just how mind-blowing their shows would be if they were full-time musicians doing this for a living....and then I realised it was probably the fact that they do perform so rarely together that makes the performances so special....and fresh-sounding.

It was a night when the folk performing seemed to have as much fun, pleasure and enjoyment as the 120 or so folk lucky enough to have been in the audience.

Afterwards, a DJ played a great set of tunes - mostly indie, but not exclusively, and mostly drawn from the 80s, but again not exclusively. Myself and Comrade Colin and many others danced and danced and danced and danced again, only pausing to take in liquid to stem the sweat and only stopping when the house lights came on at 12.15am.
Than I walked home happy in the knowledge that I had again been so lucky to have been part of something so special and also realising that if I had never taking up this blogging lark, I'd have missed out on it.


Over two years ago, I described Glasgow's Butcher Boy as very "Felt-y" – hardly an incorrect assessment of their sound at that time. However their new single "Carve A Pattern", for me, feels like something different. The whirring organ still manages to peek through the mix from time to time with that tone that is just SO Forever Breathes The Lonely Word, but the backbone of the song is in the bouncing piano melody, which is neither Felt nor the Butcher Boy that I recall – not at all a bad thing, mind you! Not sure what the new LP has in store for us, but assuming "Carve A Pattern" is any indication, it sounds like Butcher Boy has become a Butcher Man.

The Beautiful Music

Butcher Boy are another great band from Scotland (Glasgow), who have been around for several years and have been likened to bands like Felt, Tindersticks, The Go-Betweens, Belle & Sebastian, Love, The Pale Fountains and The Smiths (which alone should give any Pop fan sufficient reason to check them out). They have a very rich and poetic sound and sing from the heart with passion and brilliance. They are on one of UK’s premier POP labels How Does It Feel To Be Loved? (, the same label that brought us the wonderful “The Kids At The Club” release a few years back. Butcher Boy have released an album “Profit In Your Poetry” and several singles, which are sadly sold out, and are about to release, what will be one of the finest releases of 2009 “React Or Die” next month. The single “Carve A Pattern” is already available as a free download, so you may want to react quickly and you don’t even have to buy it.

That is all fine and good, but the real reason I am writing this is that I included “Permanent Past Tense” on my latest mix tape Beyond The Beautiful Music - Volume 14 as I think this song is amazing. This song is also proof that Butcher Boy is a band of quality and distinction and heading for greater things when the B-Side is this good.

Plan B

Stuart Murdoch reckons this is 'a real classy record from start to finish' – naysayers, take that as you will. These Glaswegians adopt the darker side of pop and add more strings and melodrama for a second album that’s full of finesse, like Tindersticks’ halcyon days


Experimental Music Love

Buoyed in America by the fleeting fame that comes from having a song played over the ending montage of emotion and contemplation of a high-budget drama drama, as each character suffers the realisation that life in such a show may be pretty but it blows, Butcher Boy returns with a single of similar subtle brooding. Taking tips form Lloyd Cole, this is sweet acoustic Glasgow, flecked with sprinklings of clean electric guitar for melodic affect. The violas are no surprise too, but are no less welcome assuring a class already offered by the claming lilt of a refined Scot. Next stop, Grey’s.

For Folk's Sake

It's an exciting time for Scottish music. Camera Obscura are set to release fourth full length My Maudlin Career, Drever, McCusker and Woomble have joined forces to form a folk behemoth, and now relative newcomers Butcher Boy have released their second album React Or Die.

Here literate, poetic lyrics meet imaginative, eclectic arrangement and – most importantly – thoroughly good pop tunes. At just half an hour, there's no room for filler on this album. The jangly orchestration and soft delivery of opener When I'm Asleep jars enticingly with the repeated lyric "When I'm asleep/I never dream/I never feel anything". The fantastic single Carve a Pattern (available for free download - click here) has driving piano chords and percussive vocals that defy toes not to tap. And bittersweet This Kiss Will Marry Us oozes romance with mellifluous cello, and the sound of the seaside. With lines like "you're far too beautiful and kind for these times" songwriter John Blain Hunt echoes Donovan's Vincent before turning its on its head with "you're far too gullible you're blind to these times".

Handclaps, twee guitars and Scottish accents inevitably invite comparisons with Belle and Sebastian – indeed the band count Stuart Murdoch among their fans. The likeness is not inconsiderable, but Butcher Boy are no tribute act and React or Die's subtley layered songs and wry yet keenly felt lyrics make it a worthy successor to their excellent 2007 debut Profit in Your Poetry.

The Organ

Sublime intelligent subtle glowing alternative indie pop from Glasgow's rather beautiful Butcher Boy. Rich with colour, emotion, ambition and yes, perfection as those notes fall and a flow up to that perfectly carved rose that was the last single. Actually this isn’t the best track on the very vert fine new album React or Die that’s out in April. Butcher Boy are full of heart, feather nests and unexpected piano bits, lovely bits...

God Is In The TV

Glaswegian act Butcher Boy came to our attention in 2007, with the release of their first album "Profit in Your Poetry". It was a real treat, a excellently realised indie folk pop album, full of literate, heartfelt lyrics about wistful memories: it’s tender, organically produced sound drew favourable comparisons in my own mind: "Think early Belle and Sebastian haunted by a real past, the precise poetic pop of the Smiths tinged with a heavy Glaswegian sensibility. Think the tunes of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions matched to the intimacy of Arab Strap, most of all think wonderfully dark pop music, for nights out or those long dark midnights spent alone by your turntable, reading the inlay, and submersing yourself in the sound." They followed this up with the single "18th Emergency" later that year, a stately ballad it was like being allowed to read someone's secret diary entry, each line consumed with poetic heart tugging imagery that conjures up moments in time, lovers lost and real kitchen sink drama.

Their new album "React or Die" is preceded by a single "Carve a Pattern". It reflects a progression a more buffed up, musically expressive sound that still bares the emotional brevity, and bittersweet vocals at the heart of Butcher Boy. We caught up with their lead singer/lyricist John Blain Hunt (who is also the famed DJ behind the National Pop League nights) for an exclusive insight into each of the tracks that make up their second work "React Or Die."


I wrote the main melody one Sunday night after watching The Dream Life of Angels on BBC2. Rue des Cascades by Yann Tiersen is over the closing credits, and the film has an incredibly savage and sad ending. I could barely speak the day after watching it. The final frame is still and calm but it is heaving with regret. It's like a sob caught in your chest, grief.

Originally, the song was a duet with a completely different vocal melody but when Maya joined the band I went back to it and worked on a stronger cello line, something to suit Maya's style of playing which is very confident and strident. The rest of the song fell into place around the cello. I watched The Dream Life of Angels again and I re-wrote the lyrics to read like a nursery rhyme. Basil plays ten mandolin tracks on three mandolins at the end. Brian, the engineer, said that the last "I never feel..." was a Leo Sayer moment, which I'm quite proud of.

I love playing this live - it breathes and it feels very powerful.


I bought a rattly old piano in 2003 and I came up with the melody for "Carve A Pattern" the day I got it - I don't think I ever wrote anything else on that piano. Butcher Boy aren't really a band for jamming but we used to rehearse this song a lot, just because it was such good fun to play. I've got a ten-minute long recording of us playing it in my old front room and by the end of the song we were hamming it up so much it's like the finale of a Broadway musical.

This was always going to be the most pop song on the record -I wanted it to be really sharp and snappy. The last chord originally rang out for twenty seconds, like A Day In The Life, and there are lots of little nods to different songs I love in it. Brian said that the backing vocals in the chorus are like Satellite Of Love but I think they're more like Mr Sandman by the Chordettes. They're both odd and unsettling songs though; either one is good enough for me.


I distinctly remember humming the melody for this one afternoon while we were recording our first record. There seemed to a big leap between the verse and the chorus melodies and I originally thought it could be a call and response song.
This song was pieced together in the studio much more than the others. We ended up trying to lighten it a lot, as it had ended up sounding very ominous and serious. We swapped from upright piano to Rhodes and chopped out a lot of the strings.

I used to see a man busking on saxophone around Glasgow a lot and, for a while, I harboured a fantasy I would ask him in to play some chops and then open up with a solo at the end. We never did it, but I maintain it would've worked! We had a whistle signalling the end section too, which was meant to be a little nod to Felicity but we decided to cut it.
We used Brian's Moog for the end section - the overall feel of the song was meant to be like Del Shannon's Runaway and we were trying to get close to that high organ sound.


This was, mostly, a really old song I wrote at the end of 1998 called Sugar Shock, but we changed a lot of the arrangement and the vocal melody and lyrics are different.

I wrote it when I was living in Sheffield. I had the attic room and you could see for thirty miles out of the window - it was really magical. I used to write songs on an old keyboard called an ARP Quartet - it was very limited and unreliable but had a really beautiful, gentle piano tone. Everything came out sounding like it was recorded in the woods.
I wrote the words to this sitting in Queens Park. The music is very gentle and so I wanted to unsteady it a little. I'm happy that it can read as a piece of prose - it sits beside "There Is No-One Who Can Tell You Where You've Been" from our first record.

Alison plays piano strings on this, and Alison, Basil and I wrote the oboe part together one Sunday morning... the song really needed an oboe! It sounds like woodcuts to me, and ink, and a very heavy sky.


We were going to call the album this - it's like an unwritten Burns poem.

This is another old song - I recorded a version of it at Ca Va in 2001 along with I Know Who You Could Be (which was on Profit In Your Poetry) and two songs we've not released yet called Juicy Fruit and Mouchette. Again, the ARP was a key part in writing it - originally, the little piano riff repeated over and over again. I recorded the first demo on Halloween 2001 and I've got lovely memories of that.

We recorded the sea sounds at Irvine beach on New Year's Day, 2008 - we got about 15 minutes worth, inciting the seagulls with a goat's cheese tart. I also wanted to get the sounds of sails slapping against masts but, strangely, all the boats were out of the harbour that day.

The introduction to This Kiss Will Marry Us was originally another old song - one I'd forgotten about and found going through cassettes when I was moving house. I used to catalogue the songs I wrote but this one had no title or date - I think it was from the same times as When I'm Asleep though, when I was trying to write sea shanties on melodica.
Alison plays the piano strings again, and the Rhodes too... I wanted it have the feeling of uneasiness you get from the gentler songs on the Assault On Precinct 13 soundtrack, which are warm and incredibly cold and detached at the same time. That's how the song feels to me - being aware of the structure and purpose of emotion but not knowing how it works at all.


Musically this was, by far, the easiest song to write for the record - the whole song fell into place in about five minutes. I was watching the 2007 Scottish Cup Final in the house with my pal Iain at the time, and we'd got sandwiches and coffee and cake from a place called Espresso, which is one of my favourite places to eat. I was probably feeling pretty happy and satisfied.

The lyric to this one is my favourite on the record - I wanted to use the phrase "a better ghost" for ages but couldn't exactly work out what it would mean. It came eventually though... I remember reading that birds can flock and fly in formation because they have magnets in their bones. I don't know if that's true or not but I liked the idea.
We made a video for this song with our pals Keith and Allison. There is a real feeling of tenderness between them in the video which I really love. The song tries to be tender, but stoic too.


I can barely play piano and Alison and I more or less got here by trial and error and me humming everything. There is a chord change in the instrumental section that's consciously All Of My Heart by ABC and the general feel I was hoping for was Vince Guaraldi.

This is definitely the most complicated song for us to play! Findlay is an incredible drummer - we're constantly in awe of how quickly he can pick things up, interpret them, and then make them entirely his own. We ended up with a samba current all the way through this, blocks, congas... I was playing a guitar rhythm I'd cribbed off the Miracles and Basil is playing this really beautiful, bluesy little riff... It's on our agenda now to learn how to actually play it together.
The cornet players from Kings Park Brass Band play on the second half of this song - when we'd completed the instrumental I couldn't quite believe we'd come up with it all.


This is another old song - I wrote it in the summer of 2000. It's changed a little musically since then, but oddly for me the lyrics are pretty much intact. I like the line "I watch with tired eyes as you seduce yourself" -that's the mood for the song.

As a band we were actually playing this before much of the material for our first record was finished, but we struggled to get it to hang together properly. We tweaked the drums though - it's got a little stutter and roll from The Train From Kansas City by the Shangri Las in there now - and it suddenly worked.

Originally, the song started with guitar and vocals but we worked on a different introduction... We wanted it to sound like the Carpenters. Basil's guitar makes it more Candy Says... and we managed to get some use out of the studio Mellotron in the middle eight.

We gave the clock we used at the end of this song to Ulla, who did all the artwork for the record.


I wrote this, as Sparks, in about 1999 in a batch of about six songs in two weeks. Originally it was a real rant - I couldn't get the words out fast enough. We started working on it again when we were on tour in October 2007 and actually got round to sound checking it a few times.

I rewrote the words last summer. I always found the sound of Sunday Bells quite ominous - they remind me of being little and having the quilt pulled up to my eyes.

Basil's guitar reminds me of Don't Fear The Reaper; the Hammond reminds me of I Will Die With My Head In Flames; Findlay's drumming is as precise as disco and we put in a deliberate little nod to Blue Monday going into the last verse.


Again, this song was written and pretty much ready before "Profit In Your Poetry" but I wanted to save it for a second album.

The song started out as a poem I'd written about a Diane Arbus photograph. It was of a couple of married kids in Washington Park Square in New York...

They were babies, but furious and utterly defiant to the camera. The poem was more about how I imagined that type of person.

I wrote it when I was on holiday in Philadelphia in 2005. I had a rare moment on that holiday - it was Halloween and I was walking. It was warm, I was just off the campus at Penn University. It was about 4pm and the sun had started to drop and suddenly the angle of the light and the shadows on the building opposite was perfect. It was so beautiful and still and it literally felt I had spent my whole life waiting for that moment. And it felt like the end of something... it's not explicitly connected, but because I was working on this song at the time, this song reminds me of that moment. It's apt that it's the last song on the record.

When the brass band come in it's meant to sound like the lights of miners' hard hats appearing over the hill. Alison arranged that little piece and it brings a lump to my throat.

I really enjoy songs that are less than two minutes long.


As Stuart Mudoch continues to dick around with his musical and the Belle & Sebastian sabbatical drags into its third year, Butcher Boy return to seize the demographic marked “young, Glasweigan, twee”. Their second album serves up what all good indie-pop comebacks do: more of the same. In their case, this means piano ballads along the lines of B&S’ We Rule The School and richly plotted arrangements of cellos and horns, regret, childlike wonder and the lilting sadness of a foggy morning, all swirling into something self-depreciatingly lovely. “I gather books and I read with missionary zeal,” whispers John Blain Hunt on Clockwork. We suspect he’s not really into horra-hop.






Music OMH

Second albums often make or break a band, particularly one with such a parochial following as Glasgow's Butcher Boy. And with their 2007 debut Profit In Your Poetry receiving generally positive reviews there is a certain amount of interest surrounding the release of React Or Die.

Once again linking with the London-based label How Does It Feel To Be Loved?, a lover of all things jangle pop, the sprawling Scottish indie band remains the plaything of lyrical poet John Blain Hunt. Indeed, for all the sprightly pop melodies on show this is a band that essentially lives and dies on the strength of Hunt's lyrics.

It is certainly true this time around that the band has toughened up the musical backing to Hunt's poetic flourishes. There is a greater sense of purpose to this album than was present on the rather wishy washy Profit In Your Poetry. A trick that Belle And Sebastian and Morrissey are both adept at pulling off course, and any review of Butcher Boy is honour bound to mention both those names as the similarities are at times startling, even down to the cinema verité cover art.

The wheezing accordion that ushers in opener When I'm Asleep is one of the album's most left-field moments, but the lyric hunkers down in traditional indie bedsit territory: "when I'm asleep/I never dream/I never feel anything". A trilling mandolin adds another subtle layer alongside Maya Burman-Roy's cello, creating a haunting backdrop to Hunt's nursery rhyme styled lyrics.

It soon becomes apparent why Stuart Murdoch is a fan, with the terrific single Carve A Pattern fairly racing along on a jaunty piano line and sawing cello. Hunt's ability to nail memorable couplets is all over the track, with "pretend to drown and I'll pretend to swim" and "with blood and tissue I will miss you' notable standouts. Anyone wishing to replace their worn-out copies of The Boy With The Arab Strap single should snap this one up.

You're Only Crying For Yourself completes an impressive opening trilogy, a deceptively simple pop song that feels timeless. Hunt has noted he was aiming to replicate Del Shannon's Runaway and it's a tribute to the band that they largely succeed, with a closing Moog section lending the track a tasty '60s feel.

This Kill Will Marry Us provides further evidence of Hunt's lyrical smarts, upending the romantic clichés of "you're far too beautiful and kind for these times" with the bittersweet pay off "you're far too gullible/you're blind to these times".

The album occasionally dips into standard indie-pop fare, with both Anything Other Than Kind and A Better Ghost failing to register much beyond their pretty melodies. But then the band will kick into the complex rhythms of Clockwork and Why I Like Babies to redeem things, with drummer Findlay MacKinnon shining on both tracks. And on the latter, Hunt finally nails the perfect Morrissey lyric: "I watch with tired eyes as you seduce yourself".

The driving Sunday Bells is another little oddity, a disco-styled track with frantic drums and an ominous lyric. It leads into the closing title track, which starts off as a gentle acoustic shuffle but sneaks a cello and brass band into its sub-two minute running time.

Yes, the detractors will bang on about Belle And Sebastian. But to be honest who cares? This is a wry, melodic collection of beautifully played indie pop, and deserves to crop up in the end of year best of lists.



Also from the tartan side of the border, albeit of a distinctly darker hue, come Butcher Boy. Their second release, React Or Die, is studded with literate, finely etched pop moments that could easily fill Belle & Sebastian's collective shoes.



Glasgow’s Butcher Boy could be perceived as the anti-Glasvegas, their own take on Classic Indie being romantic, literate and fey rather than broad and anthemic. If their 2007 debut Profit In Your Poetry draped itself over Smiths and Tindersticks hooks, the follow up is even more besotted with depression and loneliness. They’ve sacrificed tempo shifts for a bullish mining of the loss and morbidity seam, bathed in strings. Has there ever been a more indie couplet than: “You pretend to drown and I pretend to grieve”? The intent is admiration; the execution so so.

The Skinny

The follow-up to Butcher Boy’s well-received debut album finds them in familiar, but still exquisitely-crafted territory. React or Die is tuneful, rustic and soothing in equally handsome measures. However, the band draws a line between the traditional folk sounds of their Celtic forefathers and Glaswegian twee contemporaries like Belle and Sebastian or Wake the President; the mandolin intro to opening track When I’m Asleep predates vintage, setting the band’s uncompromisingly old-school agenda from the start. In that respect, Butcher Boy aren’t unlike the Fleet Foxes: too preoccupied with crafting wonderful melodies to worry about tempering them with excessive knob-twiddling. Smiths comparisons are not wholly inaccurate (the lyrics on This Kiss Will Marry Us recall Morrissey at his best, and the guitars of A Better Ghost wouldn't be out of place in a Johnny Marr songbook) but fail to tell the full story of a band quietly and confidently carving out their own unique and impressive niche.


Part-funded by the Scottish Arts Council, the Glaswegians' second album expands their literate melancholy. Intricately detailed gloomy chamber music, Tindersticks are the obvious comparison, but there's more depth to John Blain Hunt's tender vocals. There's more variety here, the band learning to swing and race among the enveloping embraces. Most importantly, it's one to lose yourself in.

East Village Radio

Also from Glasgow, but issuing their second album React Or Die through London-based label How Does It Feel To Be Loved?, Butcher Boy is the vehicle for the lyrical flights of fancy of chief honcho John Blain Hunt. This is a far, far better album than their debut Profit In Your Poetry, with the band toughening up their sound and Hunt finally nailing some of the best lyrics Morrissey never wrote.

The Scotsman

For some years, Butcher Boy mainman John Blain Hunt ran a club in Glasgow called the National Pop League, celebrating the best in indie pop. So it is just as well that he exhibits such a grasp of elegantly crafted songwriting now he has turned to making music of his own.

Belle & Sebastian comparisons are unavoidable. This second Butcher Boy album, like their debut, Profit In Your Poetry, is unabashed west-end indie - romantic, delicate, literate and sweetly melodic - and has been promoted with a tour of bowling clubs.

But there are also nods to Joe Meek on You're Only Crying For Yourself, folky Fairport flavour on Anything Other Than Kind and a mix of Hammond textures and Kraftwerkian keyboards on the relatively pacey Sunday Bells.









Butcher Boy's debut Profit In Your Poetry was lapped up by lovers of fey indie on its release - and its follow up has put John Blain Hunt and co in danger of spreading the word even further. React Or Die is painted in bolder, stronger brush strokes, bringing widescreen sheen to songs such as You're Only Crying For Yourself. Hunt's poetic musings remain as florid as ever, now matched by a melodic confidence that outshines his previously shy delivery. The spirit of Arthur Lee has edged out that of Stuart Staples, brass and strings singeing the fringes of tracks such as Sunday Bells and This Kiss Will Marry Us. This is twee pop delivered with a Glasgow kiss.




I am not sure why, but since the start of the year the number of great Scottish albums to have come out has been nothing short of phenomenal, what's even more surprising for me is the number of 'new' (or at least new to me) acts to have emerged. With albums by the Twilight Sad, Idlewild, Broken Records, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Lord Cut Glass and My Latest Novel to name just a few - still to come this really is turning into a bit of vintage year for Scottish bands. Here's another one to add to that list, Butcher Boy, a band I have only just come across in the past few weeks after I read about them playing a gig in Queens Park Bowling Club, how did I miss this?! Apparently in the past they've done gigs in Queens Park Cafe (the ice cream shop, not the pub) and various other Southside venues. They are set to release their second album, React or Die on the 6th of April, and an absolute corker it is too, do you remember the first time you heard 'Tigermilk' well that's pretty much how I felt after my first listen, really i can't recommend this highly enough. If you want more info or a better description of the band get googling as I really don't think I have the capability to emphasise quite how good their second album actually is.

Coke Machine Glow

The time is 2003, the place is Scottish indieland, but this isn’t some lost Belle & Sebastian EP, no sir. Yes, that band and this one might both be named after books about children, but where B&S is about a boy and his loyal mountain dog, Butcher Boy concerns a runaway scamp with a bolt-pistol. And though the fey mountain-loyal darlings undoubtedly cast a long shadow over Glasgow’s new sons Butcher Boy, John Blain Hunt and his band have a concrete alibi for the day “Carve a Pattern” came to light: Hunt had just chanced upon a junked piano, putting down this melody in a flash before the rest of his band began jamming. Six years later and saying balls to the speed of pop, the new Butcher Boy single is ready, taking point for the follow-up LP to the praise-heaped Profit In Your Poetry (2007).

What better way is there to feed the heap than to follow the rulebook written for part one? Hunt and buddies again explore the “shy kids get horny” manifesto bequeathed to them by a long line of fumblers, with the new song circling the bedsit where temperatures are steadily rising. “With blood and tissue / I will miss you / But don’t follow me in / Pretend to drown and I’ll pretend to swim”: easy, stud. Behind him, an ensemble of guitars, cellos, and organs light the room in low wattage, the whole having the rosy effect that any softly coy observational indie should. It’s that dark edge that seals it, though, with images of knives carving roses on doors and hands carving patterns somewhere else, so if you’re looking for something to re-glue your brain after your first significant rummage, look no further than the meat counter. After all, it’s the symmetry of the beef that makes a meal.

The Line Of Best Fit

There’s a common misconception that Glasgow’s streets are strewn with industrious bands just waiting to be heard. The city’s granite pathways are mooted as a ceaseless indie-pop conveyor belt spawned from the frustrations of foreboding housing schemes and a skyline so low it can fractured the skull. But this myopic romanticism is mere fallacy, contrived by a haggard congregation of luddites (aka the Scottish mainstream media) determined to ride one more wave of self-fabricated glory.

In reality, Glasgow is no different to Manchester, Sheffield, London, L.A, New York or any other city accorded a rose-tinted musical epoch. Sure, its history is speckled with triumphs, but for every Orange Juice there’s a Del Amitri; for every Belle & Sebastian there’s an El Presidente; and for every Jesus & Mary Chain there’s despicable sub-Phil Spector defecation (say hello Glasvegas). To get to the truth about the west coast’s musical subculture you need to wade through the bullshit. And, Christ knows, there’s a lot of that.

But scouring for diamonds often leads to unpolished gems like Butcher Boy being criminally overlooked. Their 2007 debut, Profit In Your Poetry, was a charming cul-de-sac of fey balladry that tingled with the spritely fragrance of New Pop and bore a genial kinship with Stuart Murdoch’s melody-plucking yeomen. Of course, it bombed - those piquant melodies barely registering in a climate diseased by Topshop-ruffled guitar bands - but the recording was infused with a creative grace that earmarked potential greatness, if only the band didn’t jack it all in.

Thankfully (and almost anonymously) then, the septet has returned with the release of follow up long-player React or Die. A brazen title for an act submerged in an ocean of shite with only a straw for air, this beautifully sculpted record gushes with an emotional tenderness more in keeping with the plush green pastures of Fence luminaries Kenny Anderson and James Yorkston than any Byres Road hipsters.

The immaculate wheeze of accordion that tip-toes around John Blain Hunt’s skeletal annunciation on opener ‘When I’m Asleep’ decrees the group’s elegant craft. You see, Butcher Boy are far from purveyors of the ear-clothing noise that escorts suited carcasses through the daily grind; instead, theirs is the sound of delicate, melody-charred vignettes that requires time, space and an attention span stretching beyond Channel Four list-umentaries to truly appreciate.

Here, beatific soirees flow like wine in a monastery and the effects are equally quenching: ‘The Kiss Will Marry Us’ and the brilliant ‘Why I Like Babies’ are astonishing cheek-dampeners that both enliven and oscillate with swooning melody; ‘A Better Ghost’ jangles with a exuberant Americana rhythm that incites the tandem tapping of all twenty digits; while ‘You’re Only Crying For Yourself’ is a bluster of instrumentation that swoops into Hunt’s tender intones.

The only stain on this cushioning twee-pop patchwork is the laboured ‘Sunday Bells’, a clanging, thrashing cut that never quite accelerates with the grace it should, but the title track’s ensuing chimes press so wilfully in the eardrums such banal throbbing is quickly forgotten. And it’s this perseverance that best sums up React Or Die and, perhaps, Butcher Boy themselves: you’ll have to toil through the dregs to find it but, once you have, you’ll never regret it.


The Times

By the time Oasis cloned it, fattened it up, shoved marching powder up its nose and gave it the full Adidas makeover, the only thing indie music shared with its beleaguered twin was a name. In the mid-90s, with The Smiths and the bands that came in their wake long defunct, a strain of pop music for people who read books and wore duffle coats had suddenly become an endangered species.

Hence, when Belle And Sebastian arrived in 1996, they represented a rearguard action for a marginalized aesthetic. People who complained that their live shows sounded like an unrehearsed school orchestra were missing the point. As weapons go, such unabashed feyness was probably no more effective than those poor Tibetan monks who think that meditation is a more powerful weapon than Chinese guns. But there’s a difference between pledging your allegiance and simply picking the winning team. 13 years after The Smiths released This Charming Man, Belle And Sebastian re-emphasised the core values of indiepop. Now, another 13 years on, here’s an album that will do it all over again.

If React or Die feels like the result of all that history, that’s no accident. Like Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch, Butcher Boy’s 34-year-old frontman John Blain Hunt gravitated from Ayrshire to Glasgow and spent years observing the city’s music scene as an outsider. He was a published poet before meeting musicians who helped him to turn his creations into the songs on Profit in Your Poetry, his debut album in 2004. But as if to formalise his transition to proper frontman, his group’s second album begins with When I’m Asleep – little more than a single couplet repeated over a fine rain of cello and mandolins.

Beyond the opening-credits sweep of that song, Hunt’s words fill the void where the important stuff between friends and lovers inevitably remains unsaid. You’re Only Crying for Yourself is a case in point, a meeting between two changed souls attempting in the face of circumstances to understand each other. With the halting metre of a Caledonian Jake Thackray. Hunt sings, “The face in the photograph would send me home but you won’t”.
If there’s tenderness in the tension he describes, it works the other way too. “We jaw for a month but we’re such kittenish drunks that it makes it worse,” he sings on This Kiss Will Marry Us, before Aioife Magee’s violin swirls like a thermal current beneath him.

Here and elsewhere, the pretty precision of Butcher Boy’s arrangements suggests several turntable miles spent alternately listening to the 1960s French pop dandy Michel Polnareff and, on Clockwork, the Charlie Brown pianist Vince Guaraldi. That Hunt should have grown up on a diet of Peanuts strips seems appropriate given the sentiments of songs such as A Better Ghost, where much as the hapless round-headed kid might once have done, he utters, “You’re haunted by a better ghost than me”.

And despite Sunday Bells being the only tune here that runs fast enough to break into a sweat, every song in React or Die elicits a thrill beyond speed or volume. The secret ingredient here is the monastic commitment that the most beautiful pop songs divine from those given the job of playing them. By filling up an album with them, Butcher Boy have set a standard against which every other release this year must surely be judged.


React Or Die is the second album from Scottish octet Butcher Boy, a band whose universe is held together by classic indie-rock principles like string-led wistfulness and kitchen sink drama. It's no stretch to start making comparisons to Belle & Sebastian - the group's arrangements offer a clear parallel with their fellow Glaswegians, though you could just as easily make comparisons with the pristine pop of The New Pornographers, in fact, 'Carve A Pattern' is especially reminiscent of AC Newman's widescreen songwriting. On React Or Die, Butcher Boy manage to sound both melancholy and uplifting, expansive and intimate, fashioning a mature sophomore outing that's well worth investigating.

Yahoo Music

Poor old indie's taken something of a battering of late. With guitars being shunted out of the limelight by vintage analogue synths, it's not hard to see why the genre hijacked by any number of corporate/hair/landfill* indie chancers (delete pejorative term as applicable and per personal taste) concerned about the dwindling state of their pensions in light of the global banking crisis and building careers on the flimsiest of musical propositions (hello, White Lies et al), is in a state of flux. Some might even say death throes yet those hankering for the days of anoraks, fanzines and sensitivities - the very roots of the post-C86 strain of the genre, lest we forget - will find much to gladden the heart with this, the second full-length release from Glasgow's Butcher Boy.

A pithy listen - ten tracks at just over thirty minutes - "React Or Die" is a more reflective experience than its predecessor, "Profit In Your Poetry". The sea-shanty quality of opener "When I'm Asleep" is almost mantra-like in its retreat from a world that offers less security and more terror yet this is far from a solipsistic experience. "Carve A Pattern" follows up on the rear to offer something approaching jauntiness and a spring in the step.

Throughout, singer-guitarist John Blain Hunt's delicate brogue maintains a fine balance between drama and hysteria; it always sounds like he's on the brink of breaking down in floods of tears yet has the dignity to hold back and use an articulate turn of phrase instead (see "Because it's always winter in this sunny room when you're gone" on "Why I Like Babies").

The playing throughout is a joy. Flanked by cellos, violins, mandolins, guitars and horns, Butcher Boy dance on glass with a delicate grace and ease. The ominous cello of "This Kiss Will Marry Us" is greeted by an instrumentation that remains stoic despite a quivering bottom lip. Like the best folk music, it ebbs and flows to frame the lyrical picture within it; not a note wasted, not a word out of place.

Butcher Boy is an all-too rare commodity. This is music that's prepared to meditate and contemplate rather than medicate and sedate. It's mature enough to confront its own feelings and emotions but not old enough to hector or bore. More importantly, it exists purely on its own terms. This is music that has to be made; this is music that reacts or dies.


This best word to describe this album is complete because this is a record that fills up the room, with each track a complete diversion from the last. Opener When I'm Asleep has a continental feel and is both melodic and dramatic, steeped heavily in traditional folk. That gives way to the more upbeat Carve A Pattern which has a lot going on, and This Kiss Will Marry Us is also a bit of a gem. I'm not sure it's an album I would return to again and again to the point I could recite every bar, but it's very escapist and heavy on the strings, with great lyrics, fine vocals and short, accessible tracks. Definitely the kind of music you could while away a pleasant couple of hours to.

Sunday Telegraph

I'm worried that if I give it five stars you'll go out and buy it and sniff 'Hmm, this is a bit slight' - because it does initially sound quite fey and fragile and it's only a measly half-hour long. Trust me, though, it's a grower and a joy. Butcher Boy are fronted by a thirtysomething Scots poet named John Blain Hunt, whose sweet vocals, gnomic, off-kilter lyrics, neat, folk-tinged arrangements and restrained but gently lilting melodies call to mind Belle And Sebastian at their best


To buy "React Or Die" go here


HDIF site        








how does it feel to be loved? record label - home of butcher boy, the uk label for "fill up the room" by saturday looks good to me





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