Years ago, I fell in love with the music created by queer feminist power pop rockers The Butchies (Kaia Wilson, Melissa York, and Alison Martlew). Their first full album Are We Not Femme? is on rotation in the soundtrack of my post-college music experience. Six years later, a more mature Butchies have put out their third album, Make Yr Life; fourth if you count their work on Amy Ray’s Stag in 2001. This time around it’s on Yep Roc Records, rather than Wilson’s Mr Lady Records. This has resulted in a polished production that brings out more of the subtleties of the band’s songcrafting.
As usual, I have trouble reconciling the feminine, emotional vocals with Wilson’s gender-bending personal style. She is a political feminist statement from the moment she opens her mouth and the music flows out sounding like “somewhere between The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the suspended time right before your head spins off into orgasm.”
With practiced ease, Wilson and her bandmates are able to shift from quiet intensity to rousing exuberance, often within the same track, without it seeming contrived. In fact, that is one of the style characteristics that have distinguished them from their contemporaries in my internal musical catalog. The song topics have gone from blatantly political to more of the personal-is-political. From the love-struck opening track “Send Me You” (“caught in your eyes / and i’m losing my mind”) to the I’m-over-you “Second Guess” with its repeated refrain, “i don’t need you anymore,” the human experience (or at least the romantic aspect) is played out in hook-filled power pop tunes.
The CD ends with a very satisfying cover of The Outfield‘s “Your Love.” Wilson’s breathy voice and solemn intensity coupled with York and Martlew’s light touch on the drums and bass, respectively (as well as a sprinkle of backing vocals), presents this cover with appropriate reverence. Much like Sixpence None the Richer‘s cover of “There She Goes,” the song takes a 180° shift in perspective. It is paradoxically both a Butchies-type song and not a Butchies-type song. I spent most of the first listen trying to place it, and the countless subsequent listens reveling in the beauty of it.
Take my advice and make room in your CD rotation for Make Yr Life. You won’t be sorry.