The most interesting aspect of Butterflies, Lipstick & Handgrenades is that it appears on Hiero Imperium records. The label is best known for underground hip-hop acts such as Souls of Mischief and Hieroglyphics, so a straight-up rocker like Bay Area product Chris Marsol is new territory. You have to commend Hiero for wanting to expand its scope, but, unfortunately, Butterflies, Lipstick & Hand Grenades isn’t likely to expand its prestige.
Marsol’s voice, a passionate instrument that recalls Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson at his least histrionic, is his greatest asset. But he’s put that voice to work fronting mostly faceless, often wanky fusion-rock. The playing and recording are immaculate, but the songs recall more of an American Idol castoff than a genuine up-and-comer. Yes, it’s time to bring up that most dreaded of fusion-rock least common denominators, Lenny Kravitz. When Marson scales back the chunky guitars and gets into a bit of a groove, he’s better than that. Too much of Butterflies, Lipstick & Hand Grenades, though, sounds like “Album Oriented Rock” radio circa 1993.