Bernard Butler is unquestionably one of the finest guitarists in British rock and it’s safe to say his old band Suede has never been the same without him. Departing the band during the tumultuous Dog Man Star sessions, Butler first hooked up with singer David McAlmont, forming the duo McAlmont & Butler and releasing one good, but quickly-forgotten record (Sound of McAlmont & Butler). Then, he opted to step out on his own, forging a solo career with 1998’s People Move On. Butler may have left his old band behind, but he’s still a Britpop kinda guy, and his deeply expressive guitar work is still his calling card.
Friends and Lovers is more anthemic and self-assured than People Move On, as though Butler has been steadily gaining confidence in himself as a frontman. As a vocalist, he’s not going to make you forget Brett Anderson (Suede lead singer), but he’s growing as solo artist with a polished set of stadium stompers and affecting ballads that, like Suede’s recent Head Music, shows Butler adding a bit of R&B to his potent arsenal. Butler is one of the guitar heroes of his generation, but unlike the other one John Squire (Stone Roses), he’s not trapped within his own legend.