Richard Butler is lost in space. Throughout his solo debut, the lead singer and centerpiece of the Psychedelic Furs conjures images of stars and satellites, of angels and airlines and aliens. In most cases they are allegories, but Butler in some manner has created a celestial opera that has an unfortunate tendency toward the grandiose.
Butler is most compelling when sharp and prickly, which is frustrating because this work is musically as smooth as stones in a river. Producer Jon Carin is responsible for all instruments on Richard Butler, and although he’s certainly accomplished, his background with Pink Floyd and Bryan Ferry seems to have trained him to drape each song in sweeping Alan Parsons-esque arrangements.
Sonically, the most apt recent comparison would be Coldplay’s X&Y. Richard Butler might have felt more immediate and poignant without the spacey production flourishes. Pulling off the Chris Martin success formula without sounding unbearably precious and over-baked is a tricky thing. (Many would argue that Coldplay has yet to accomplish this.)
Many of the songs have a solid structure, and he’s still got a killer voice, though it’s still most effective when it mirrors his work in the Furs and Love Spit Love. Still, Richard Butler feels stuck in a musical limbo. If Butler’s plan was to strip down his music and make it more personal and intimate, why not commit fully? If the plan was an epic suite of loss and disillusionment, why not completely embrace the bombast? Instead, we have an album that doesn’t rock, nor does it force us to listen in hushed reverence. Richard Butler is a personal and, at times, beautiful album, but sadly not enough to qualify it as a success.