When former Suede guitar botherer Bernard Butler announced he was going solo after a short but troubled collaboration with Soul singer David McAlmont, I barely blinked. I was actually pretty ignorant of his career up to then actually. I had heard that he had quit Suede just before the epic and gloriously overblown Dog Man Star was unleashed and his fractitous collaboration with McAlmont wasn’t exactly the most harmonious working relationship. He just seemed to be taking the Johnny Marr-approved route to being his generation’s in-demand guitar guest of choice. Then he announced he was going solo, signed to the Creation Records label and his label boss announced that Butler was going to be the new Neil Young. Err, no he wasn’t…
I was prepared to write Butler off as yet another over-hyped act on a label that, Super Furry Animals, Primal Scream and Teenage Fanclub aside, were desperately thrashing around in search of a half decent act.
Having written off Butler’s career, imagine my surprise when his debut single, the swooning and melodramatic “Stay”, was actually very good. Instead of the cut and paste Britpop I had been expecting, Butler seemed to have focused in on a gentle pre-punk soft-rock sound which suited his not exactly sturdy vocals beautifully. Having been emboldened by this revelation, I decided that I may as well take a risk on his debut album, something which paid of handsomely as it became one of my favourite albums of the late 90s, perfectly soundtracking the following six months or so. It was a swooning and intimate album, vaguely romantic even, while still leaving a bittersweet aftertaste so familiar to those of us suffering from unrequited feelings. I was, to put it mildly, impressed.
Sadly, for whatever reason, Butler just didn’t have it in him to release a decent follow up and one album later (the disappointing Friends and Lovers), his solo career was put on hold as he returned to session sideman territory, before ill-fated collaborations with McAlmont and former Suede running buddy Brett Anderson found him at a dead end and he concentrated on song writing and production duties for various soul-indebted British starlets. People Move On is therefore an album that stands alone. Not quite Britpop, not an acoustic album indulging in painful confessionals, it doesn’t even point the way to the traditional retro soul-pop that Butler would specialise in producing a decade later.