Julia Walker reviews the new EP from Saint John grunge punks Butcher.
If I’m measuring how excited I am about an EP based on how much I feel like jumping up and down to the first single, Deus Ex Taxin Ya had me feeling really good from the very beginning.
When I sat down to give Butcher’s new EP CUTS a proper listen, I couldn’t help from getting up and dancing. The first song, Surf Or Die is one I can see a crowd immediately moving to. If this song doesn’t start even a tiny mosh pit at the next show they play, I’m pretty sure the crowd isn’t listening properly or trying hard enough. With vocalist Cole Savoie completely in his element singing, “I don’t feel like fucking trying, I just feel like fucking dying”, you can almost start to understand how someone could feel that depressed. The lyrics repeat with such rawness and honesty that it’s as if the band is trying to tell us it really is OK to have mental struggles and it’s OK to talk about it.The main thing I’ve heard about Savoie is that he’s one of the best writers in Saint John. I’ll take that a step further and say that he’s one of the best vocalists in the city as well. The guy’s voice can convey everything from absolute terror to gratitude to regret, sometimes all within the same song.
Lyrically, Mistakes is my favorite song on this EP, despite the fact that the parts that hit me the hardest are actually quite simple. I had to double check and make sure I understood that Savoie was actually yelling “Mistakes! I make mistakes!,” into the void as confidently as you’d tell someone your first name at a party. It sounds radical to say something like that out loud without hesitating and then to sing it over and over again as loudly as you can. And “All along, I was wrong, You meant the world to me,” are the most honest first lines I’ve ever heard come out of an adult man’s mouth. It’s like the band really understands that punk music isn’t really punk music without having a bit of vulnerability to balance the aggression.
S.H.I.T offers a break halfway through to let yourself go crazy and not think too hard about what comes from that. It’s the type of song I’d take to the gym if I could remember to ever get there. To me, good punk songs sound like a workout. They make you want to run around a room and bump into stuff in the process. This song is sure to make you sweat if you give it the chance to.
Two Shots makes you want to sway your hips until you slowly realize the reason you’re dancing is that you hate cops. The song is referencing the wellness checks that happened a few years ago that resulted in two cops killing two different indigenous people in the province. Chantal Moore and Rodney Levi were their names. But at the end of the day, this song could be about any minority and a lot of cops. “I don’t know what you want from me, A wellness check?, Just leave me be,” is a punch to the gut if you’re capable of picturing what it might be like to be on the other end of a wellness check. “That’s all that we know, is two shots, by two cops, and two dropped,” is a succinct but effective summary of how brutal and quickly things can go wrong when the police get involved. Two Shots may be the most creative way I’ve ever heard someone say, “All cops are bastards”.
The EP ends on a surprisingly uplifting note. Too Dumb is deceptively pretty, convincing you that all the dumb things you regret are actually okay for the duration of the song. Savoie told me he loves contrast. “It’s very much about realizing you lost something you never knew you had…and you were too dumb to realize at the time”, he said. The guitar part that comes in halfway through is almost too pretty for the song considering the context of the lyrics, but that’s what makes it so interesting. Kortni Nichols’ vocals add a further layer of contrast to the music adding a softness to the band’s rough sound with harmonies that fill up the rest of the song until it feels like the sound is almost ready to overflow. Savoie sings “I lost my everything” over and over until the music slows down almost entirely and you can hear the exact moment where he realizes the gravity of what he’s lost.
CUTS was released August 18.
September 16 | Gus’s Pub | Halifax | w/ Pith and Lionsault