John Butler Trio | Home Album Review
“Songs have always been my friends. No matter what I’m going through, they help me convey the things my heart feels but my brain is too afraid to say,” said a reflective John Butler about his most recent ordeals. The result of such experiences is titled Home - Butler’s seventh effort, the record looks to explore some of the singer’s past, as well as his insecurities.
Home opens with ‘Tahitian Blue’, a cosy, homely track that digs deep to try and set the tone for the rest of the LP. While the album fluctuates throughout, tracks like the opener attempt to ground it to the arid, scorching aura acting as a foundation. This is helpful early on too, as the track which follows, ‘Wade In The Water’, opts for a bluesy, stoner-esque approach doused in southern style.
Looking at Butler’s own take on recent events, he said, “Grappling with this herd in this state would prove uniquely tricky. As things turned out, that journey would actually be critical in helping me deal with my shit.” The idea of that ’journey’ is so far cemented into Home that a piece of the man himself is certainly embedded inside. With ‘Wade In The Water’ acting as the cornerstone for this notion, it’s obvious how the trudging rhythm mirrors a personal struggle, as well as the lyrics pursuing the desire on the edge of Butler’s fingertips: “I’m looking for something,” and then, “It’s on the tip of my tongue, it keeps slipping away - I don’t wanna live here all alone”.
The third track, ‘Just Call’ possesses an air of longing about it. It does distract somewhat from the comfortable feel of the LP, but it’s probably the most textbook country rock number on the album. Its typical lyrics aren’t particularly inventive, but they’re rescued by warm production and moving basslines. It’s apparent at this point that imagery is rife, both in lyricism and in instrumentals, painting a vivid, deserted landscape - like country fusion taken to the heart of Australia.
By far the crowning achievement is the title track. A very modern, sharp touch on rock, ‘Home’ genuinely pushes boundaries, taking all the great aspects of contemporary pop and R&B and blurring it into a very convincing, cool as you like tribute to Butler’s hometown, no doubt one that is drenched in nostalgia. ‘Home’ seems so naturally apt for dozens of situations, from a jaded rockstar walking into the dressing room to a lonesome rover looking for a place to stay, helped by the fact that the song is a great example where the verses are better than the choruses.
Friend and producer Jan Skubiszewski helped shape the album more as a solo endeavour, which shows - Butler often divulges about honesty, friendships, hardships and confusion, supplying a sense of vulnerability that isn’t shaken through the entire second half of the LP; as the record slows (evident on ‘Faith’), opting for the safer, country road approach to songwriting, Butler seems to accept he may need a little help on the way to be okay - he’s only human after all. ‘Coffee, Methadone & Cigarettes’ only further solidifies this, being a brooding track noting the singer’s healing process.
‘You Don’t Have To Be Angry Anymore’ is a welcome change of pace too, serving as a determined message on recollecting and stopping to get your bearings. Home contains plenty of desire and yearning, but remains grounded enough to realise its own limitations - at no point does it feel too surreal or otherworldly, and rightly so, as this is ‘roots’ rock through and through.
Home is a satisfyingly comfortable record, and by documenting Butler’s ups and downs through song, it feels like not only does the listener know him a little better, but that the singer feels more confident in himself as well, almost as if he just had to write these songs as a coping mechanism to break away from the mundane. As the man himself said, “There was no choice. Like that classic children’s book, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt says: ‘Can’t go under it, can’t go over it, can’t go around it. Must go through it.”