Free and legal MP3: Patrick Boutwell (crunchy, complex power pop)

Rhythmic imbalance is central to the crunchy charm of “Scotch the Snake”; the melody wants to soar but is repeatedly hemmed in by the offbeat beat.

Patrick Boutwell

“Scotch The Snake” – Patrick Boutwell

We get un-clap-along-able hand claps in song one, and extended bits of 7/4 time in song two. 6/4 too. It’s my lucky week.

Of course there’s more to the crunchy, incisive “Scotch the Snake” than an asymmetrical time signature, but the rhythmic imbalance remains central, and keeps straight-ahead catchiness at bay—the melody wants to soar but is repeatedly hemmed in by the offbeat beat. And it’s kind of a good thing: we get the big guitar riffs and plaintive tenor lead of classic power pop without, quite, that genre’s simplicity (or over-simplicity). Another wrinkle here: what appears to be the verse delivers the big melodic hook, as soon as the singing starts; and what appears to be the chorus feels more bridge-like, connecting the payoff delivered each time by the verses. It’s an extra way that “Scotch the Snake” keeps the ear pleasantly off-balance.

As it turns out this is the second song heard here in recent months that offers up the aural vocabulary of power pop while undermining the genre’s tendency to be ear-candily catchy (see, previously, Cotton Mather). I’m not saying this is a national trend (if only) but I like it in any case.

Boutwell is front man for the Rhode Island-based band The Brother Kite, which one or two Fingertips veteran followers might (possibly?) remember from the early early days—they were not only featured here in 2004 but the following year the band’s song appeared on the one and only Fingertips compilation CD (Fingertips: Unwebbed, of which I still have a batch in my closet). (Anyone want one?)

“Scotch the Snake” is a track from Boutwell’s album Hi, Heaviness, which was released at the beginning of March. The phrase is Shakespearean, from Macbeth, where it refers to temporarily debilitating but not actually destroying something dangerous. You can hear the whole thing on Bandcamp, and choose to pay for it whatever you’d like. Thanks to the valiant Powerpopulist blog for the head’s up on this one. And thanks to Patrick himself for the MP3.

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