Review of The Voluntary Butler Scheme's album At Breakfast, Dinner, Tea released through Split Records.
Ok, don't let the ridiculous name put you off! The Voluntary Butler Scheme is a bit misleading. TVBS is essentially a one-man-band; Rob Jones from Stourbridge in the Midlands. He's a talented chap who writes infectious, classical sounding pop tunes and At Breakfast, Dinner, Tea is his debut album.
What strikes you immediately about this record is the arrangement and instrumentation; tinkling pianos, guitar, brass, percussion and synths all bringing a really classical sound to the album. The production skills of Charlie Francis were brought on board and the result is excellent. Despite the classical sound, it isn't over produced or polished beyond an inch of its life.
The thumping foot-stomping previous single Tabasco Soul is a definite stand out track, with a swinging funky vibe, catchy hook and brilliant lyrics. But the album is not all about up-beat pop. Hot Air Balloon Heart is a pretty, low-tempo ballad with heartfelt lyrics about longing and loving. But before that brings you down, it's immediately followed by another stand-out stomper, the more electro-stylings of Split.
The brass can get a bit much at times, none more so than on The Effel Tower And The BT Tower and that coupled with sweet vocals and lots of 'bah, bah, bah' and 'whoo whoo whoo' harmonies, can make it all a bit saccharine at times. But Rob Jones' novelty, almost comical lyrics go far to offset the sweet sounding vocals, bringing a smile to your face and all the irritation is forgotten - 'can't go treating my heart like bagpipes anymore' Jones cheekily pleads.
Despite its shortcomings (the horns, too many horns!), At Breakfast, Dinner, Tea is a strong debut of classical pop with a retro 60s sound and intelligent lyrics that will make you smile - worth a listen.