Monday, July 18, 2011


Last March “The Chevreul EP” showed Rob Jones, Mr VBS, spreading his sonic wings to embrace chip-core alongside the bubblegum-pop soul groove of debut album "At Breakfast Dinner Tea". Released today on Split Records comes Voluntary Butler Scheme album number two “Grandad Galaxy” and it shows that “The Chevreul EP” was neither a side-step nor a clearing out of non-album tracks: its sound is fully embedded in this record and in fact all four tracks appear.

The disparate domestic preoccupations from the debut album continue here – remembering PIN codes, hiring cars and throwing frisbees – but also as Jones sings on Astro “I’ve been looking for a little more elbow room”. So this record retires some of more euphoric Jackson Five moves from the first album (no obvious ‘Tabasco Sole’ or ‘Trading Things In’ comparators) but expands the scope sideways: familiar and cosy, pipe-and-slippers croon-pop butts up against more novel and quirky electronica. So ‘The Height of A Frisbee’, ‘Shake Me By Shoulders’ and the calypso-inflected ‘Don’t Rely On It, Don’t Count On It’ all fall in the former camp: genteel, funny-sad ditties about growing old or feeling like a circus clown, dreamy ruminations with great melodies.

‘Do The Hand Jive’, a fidgety but addictive glitch-fest of stop-start rhythms and stuttering chants is the fulcrum between these and the short, glitchy instrumentals like ‘Sky Shed’, ‘Hiring a Car’ or ‘Umbrella Fight’. As I’ve said before, ‘Satisfactory Substitute’ sounds exactly what you think DJ Shadow’s ‘Organ Donor’ recreated in a suburban West Midlands back bedroom would; but the others in this camp are closer to Plone-meets-The Pooh Sticks, playground-tronica with touches of twee power-pop.

If the first album made its mark by looping riffs and beats, this record does so by slicing them up. “Grandad Galaxy” can come across as a humbler, more introspective record than its predecessor at times which is curious for an more experimental and adventurous one. At fifteen tracks and a leisurely pace the album could definitely have been leaner but it feels niggardly to criticize its homespun, laid-back charms and catchy playfulness. Especially when The Voluntary Butler Scheme remains the home to delicious cardigan-wearing flights of fancy: "and though astronomers say it’s a dream away / I want to live my life on the moon”.

The Voluntary Butler Scheme Grandad Galaxy [BUY]

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