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Play With Your Head

Candy Butchers

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Album Review

On their/his full-length debut album, Falling Into Place, Candy Butchers' Mike Viola (the group name is really a polite fiction) came off as a successor to Graham Parker and early Elvis Costello in the romantically angered post-punk new wave vein, a worthy enough position that tends to delight critics without engaging the critical mass of fans it takes to maintain a major-label record contract. On his/their second album (this time the billing is Candy Butchers instead of Mike Viola & Candy Butchers), Viola often comes off as a Marshall Crenshaw-style power popper, steeped in the sound of mid-'60s pop/rock and its fascination with unusual sounds audible on the margins of tracks dominated by electric guitar riffs and hooky choruses. "Baby, It's a Long Way Down," for example, is distinctly Beatlesque, while "My Monkey Made a Man Out of Me," apparently a celebration of addiction, boasts an intro and outro that recall George Harrison's flirtation with Indian music. On Falling Into Place, Viola seemed to be writing the same song of romantic disappointment over and over; here he is still disappointed, but his frustration is more global. "The older I get the more it seems/I watch my dreams get smaller," he begins on "It's a Line," and this sense of diminished expectations pervades the songs. The romantic element is not absent, but things are more specific and more desperate, notably on "I Let Her Get Away," in which a pregnancy is compared to mold. By album's end, Viola has practically abandoned the studio trickery to return to a Parker/Costello-like stance on "Make No Mistake," singing over acoustic guitar accompaniment with bitter wordplay that continues into the elegiac closer, "Call Off the Dogs." The album makes another impressive, if severe, statement likely to play well to the brainy and miss the masses.

Customer Reviews

Shameful that Mike Viola barely even gets credit in the indie world

This is the second album released by Mike Viola's band, The Candy Butchers. While I'm certain that the other members of the band are talented and do their share, Mike Viola is an amazing talent. Thanks to Rolling Stone randomly reviewing this album when it came out in 2002, I special ordered it from my local cd store and was thrilled at the result. This is what pop music should be - varied, sometimes challenging, but always listenable. "Ruby's Got a Big Idea" is a nerdy pop gem. "Baby, it's a Long Way Down" is a heartbreaker worthy of Pet Sounds, but the track that, were all the other tracks terrible (and they're not), would make the album still worth buying, is "You Belong to Me Now." After six years and being put on countless mix cds, I never skip this track. It's one of the few songs that after hundreds of listens, still effects me the way it did when I first bought the album. If you can spare the ten bucks, this one won't let you down.

Biography

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The indie pop/rock band Candy Butchers consist largely of singer/songwriter Mike Viola. He first adopted the group name for his duo with Todd Foulsham, playing around New York in the mid-'90s. After Foulsham left to start a family, Viola, as Candy Butchers, was signed to Blue Thumb Records and recorded the album Candy Butchers, which was scheduled for release in 1996, but failed to appear when the label shuttered; Blue Thumb did manage to release a Candy Butchers EP, Live at la BonBonniere, however....
Full Bio
Play With Your Head, Candy Butchers
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