He’s unpredictable, as a rule – but after more than four decades in the spotlight, fans of Chris Butler have got a pretty good idea what to expect from him. Butler’s name on a record means impish wit, irreverence, catchy hooks, bold detours into new wave shimmer and psychedelic swirl, and occasional sonic mayhem, too – but always in the service of the song. Butler has earned himself a reputation as one of the most forthright and funny lyricists around, and his studio provocation has won him the respect of creative, risk-taking recording artists around the country. He helped kick-start the Akron sound with Tin Huey, he turned surf-rock expectations upside-down with Purple k’niF, and as the songwriter and guitarist of The Waitresses, he penned a holiday favorite (“Christmas Wrapping”) and an eternally relevant pop-rock classic (“I Know What Boys Like”).
That’d be enough for most songwriters. But Butler keeps trying on new hats, taking chances, and fearlessly pushing his ideas forward in as many different directions as possible. (This is a guy who elbowed his way into the Guinness Book in 1997 with the longest song ever cut. Why? Because it’s a cool thing to do, that’s why.) The cheekily-titled Got It Together! is Butler’s latest collection of experiments, wry commentaries, skewed art-pop songs, and undeniable melodies, and it’s already won plaudits from The Vinyl District, Daily Vault, Ink 19, and other appreciators of strong songwriting and adventurous recording.
“Summer Money,” the new single from the set, is a seasonal psych-pop singalong with a lengthy guitar solo as warm and languorous as a July day. But since this is Chris Butler on the microphone, the track comes with a twist: he’s not just celebrating the warm weather, he’s also anticipating the harsh Ohio winter to come.
An artist who has always led with his smart verses deserves an engrossing lyric video, and animator Louise Wili has delivered a clip worthy of the track. She’s flooded the screen with warm summertime yellows and icy January blues and greys and decorated the frames with kaleidoscopic arrays of flower petals and ice cream cones. The emphasis is on the words – as it should be – and Wili finds clever places in the illustrations for each couplet. The result is a celebration of a songwriter who has always kept us enlightened and entertained in equal measure.