Butch Walker: Sycamore Meadows

What makes Walker so damn good: his willingness to throw everything in the pot to make heartfelt music full of bluster and brains.

Butch Walker

Sycamore Meadows

Label: Original Signal
US Release Date: 2008-11-11
UK Release Date: Available as import

Some of us fans wonder why Butch Walker hasn’t become a major star. Walker’s street smarts and deep emotional intelligence ooze out of his Southern charms making him the thinking man’s Tom Petty. Walker’s adept way of creating epic, literate, rock and roll story songs about everyday life makes him the Georgia Bruce Springsteen. Walker’s grandiose and sordid tales of glam and drugs make him the American David Bowie. These are big names to be compared with, but the fact is, Walker’s talent, charisma, and track record of impressive albums, suggests he belongs in such noble company.

Instead, most people, nay most music fans, haven’t heard Walker’s music. He’s best known as the Svengali behind the dirty-pretty girl, punk pop of Avril Lavigne, Pink, Lindsay Lohan, and Kate Perry. While he’s produced and written some fun hit tunes for these gals, it’s Walker’s own work that really stands out. He’s an idiosyncratic musician to be sure. His latest album cannibalizes and spews out influences as diverse as gospel, glitter, metal, and folk, as well as elements of the aforementioned Petty, Springsteen, and Bowie in new and exciting ways. But that’s what makes Walker so damn good: his willingness to throw everything in the pot to make heartfelt music full of bluster and brains.

The truth is, Walker knows how good he is and is somewhat pompous about himself and bitter about how he has been treated. He jokes about this on the latest record. On the clever and amusing “A Song for the Metalheads” he sings, “When you live in the past / There’s one thing that will last / The resentment that time won’t sit still” before launching into “The record business is fucked / it’s kind of funny.” While it’s usually a mistake to confuse the narrator of a song with its author, Walker’s new album is clearly confessional. The title gets its name from the Malibu street where Walker used to live until wildfires destroyed his house, home studio and all his master recordings.

Walker also sings about his parents, growing up in the suburbs, and memories of Georgia. He makes fun of rednecks and the Southern church as he worships at the altar of rock (“The static singes the speakers like a thousand hymns of inspiration”) as he sings on “Closer to the Truth and Farther from the Sky”, a tune about his early hunger for something more than he could find in the local geography. That doesn’t stop him from loving the memories of the past. He just knows enough to look forward. Perhaps losing everything in a fire will do that to you.

The record is upbeat as a result. “Don’t let the weight of the world bring you down”, he croons on the intro tune, and that sets the tone for what follows. He understands in a world full of heavy lessons, one has to keep things light to keep on moving on. One may not be able to go home again (Walker makes several allusions to Thomas Wolfe on the record), but that doesn’t mean one can’t go back again and learn from what was good: sex, music, good friends, and maybe even love. “Packing up and starting over” may be the central theme here. You don’t have to leave everything behind to keep on going, but you do have to keep on keeping on.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.