McAlmont & Butler - Bring It Back

As the familiar drum beat to their comeback single "Falling" counts in bars to the Spector sized string crescendo and the angelic tones of David McAlmont and trademark guitar from Bernard Butler you realize just how much we've missed one of the greatest songwriting partnerships of the past decade. Their back catalogue may be as slim as Eminem is shady and their solo work leaves a lot to be desired, but together they create the type of magic that once was only written in the songwriting factories for Motown. Still, like all great partnerships, they thrive of the buzz and the animosity of being two totally different souls brought together by the love of music and it's this friction which resulted in the pair acrimoniously splitting up back in 1995 leaving McAlmont reeling claiming that Butler was homophobic and the partnership was unworkable.

Five years is a long time in pop though and all that seems to be under the bridge now, tellingly after both parties respective solo offerings failed to make any great impact on the world (even though Butler's debut album featured some of his best work). "Theme From..." seems to be a counselling session in mutual appreciation which sadly leaves a gloriously camp chorus tagged onto the end of an otherwise forgettable filler track. Certain though to have somewhat of a revival in their forthcoming live shows, which ideally would see a return to the glamour in pop music rather than the workman like attire McAlmont has been sporting recently. On "Different Strokes" lyrically it seems as if McAlmont has a Will "Oops, I forgot my sexuality" Young moment where he sings "Girl, I do the best I can. Try and improve the way I am" in a pastiche to the old soul heroes. It's a disappointing moment, where once he'd have been out there - loud and proud - he now feels the need to tone down the flamboyance to fit in within the constraints of the music industry.

"Can We Make It?" is the best Northern Soul track never released on Kent Records, with it's driving piano motif just managing to be heard over the wall of feedback and full brass section. It's one of the songs which although steeped in the tradition of the genre is fused with a unique British styling to raise it above the level of a simple pastiche. The duo's next single "Bring It Back" is complemented with some beautiful backing vocals in a call and response autobiographical song which could equally be about two lovers as two warring musicians. "Where R U Now?" on the outset seems extremely simplistic, but after repeated listens it develops into a song of unknown depths with intricate guitar riffs weaving in and out between a subtle Xylophone melody.

"Bring It Back" has proved once and for all that McAlmont and Butler together are probably the closest were going to get to the origins of true soul music in the 21st Century. Let's just hope they choose to stick around a little longer than last time.

Alex McCann

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