Originally a clear vinyl Record Store Day release last year, 23 years after its release in 1998, Bernard Butler’s debut LP People Move On hits shelves again and this isn’t just a refreshed vinyl release from the guitarist/singer/songwriter, because Butler has also re-recorded his vocals in May 2021 by using the original 1997 instrumental mixes of each track, and it now features his favourite photo as the cover, plus new sleeve notes all packaged around this 2x LP 180G white vinyl release from Demon Music Group.
In these notes, Butler tells us this version has ‘freed himself to recite words from memory and adjust to please… carving new melodies, with a new sonic blueprint’ and I genuinely love the approach to this historic set of songs from his younger self. Music should always grow and evolve, and People Move On today offers up a new musical palette that’s clearly liberated from those clutches of youth, the ones we all know so well and especially if you remember this the first time around, as I do.
Butler was initially known for being the guitarist in Suede, up to 1994, before joining up with David McAlmont on one of my all-time favourite albums, The Sound Of… McAlmont & Butler that’s always worth revisiting, it’s a haunting, epic and spinetingling album all its own making. After creative differences, he moved fully into his solo work, releasing this album and Friends and Lovers on Creation Records. Over the years, he’s been widely respected as an incredible guitarist and has collaborated with a wide range of talented songwriters.
For this vocally re-recorded People Move On, and as it’s genuinely been a number of years since I listened in its entirety, let’s go track-by-track…
Opener Woman I Know remains a skyscraper of a song, sweeping orchestral accompaniment, his epic guitar playing that remains me of those early Suede days. It’s a ‘put the needle down and turn it up’ if there ever was one. Let it soar.
You Just Know is late 90s in both its melody and presentation, but then into the title track People Move On is where you really hear this fresh vocal display offering a distinct perspective, that soft vocal is more gravelly, matured and storey-telling-esque. You can see why he wanted to take it on, as there are some classic songs from the era amongst this collection.
A Change of Heart has that Paul Weller–Stanley Road vibe running through it, it’s perfectly pleasant. I think Butler excels though in the longer songs, where his guitar gets the chance to do the talking, where the rhythm and song can journey, blend and build. The echoey world of Autograph takes us into a darker world, a mysterious street-light-lit encounter, through the seasons of the moments. Then you hit the breakdown and it’s GLORIOUS. And that’s meant to be in capitals. Yes.
You Light the Fire is plucked out of the Almost Famous late 60s/early 70s vibe, an acoustic story with a roll of Simon & Garfunkel, Cat Stevens and this is all intermingled between the likes of his Roxy Music and Hunky Dory-Bowie as influences, which makes for a lovely lament.
Not Alone has that deep essence of McAlmont & Butler’s ‘Yes’ to, deep in its soul, and that’s fine by me, especially when you’re adding in Edwyn Collins, who remains one of those most underrated songwriters of that era, check out Gorgeous George for an example – and The Campaign for Real Rock to get you inside of it.
When You Grow is a little make or break, You’ve Got What It Takes calms us down again and you believe his sentiments, and lyrically it’s not subtle, its’s a self-reminder that he can do this, or you can take it for your own message. Stay is probably the most well-known here, a critical hit that charted well, emulating tracks at the time like Oasis’ Whatever as it grows and expands, with that arrangement that can’t be underestimated. Do the vocal changes on something this well-known change it a little? Maybe but as with all the songs here, it brings it a new insight I welcome as he’s chosen this re-recorded route.
We close proceedings with In Vain, and the oddly apt (in recent years reasonings) I’m Tired, also a flashback to youth ponderings, it’s an interesting nostalgia with younger lyrics and older vocals. Bernard is 51 years old now by the way, sorry all.
People Move On, the latest version, offers a welcoming, refreshed revisit to a very comprehensive debut. While some tracks feel the weight of that late 90s stylistics, the stronger tracks power through with a punch. People do move on but it’s good to meet you once more, Mr Butler, and this is a crisp, clean sounding vinyl from Demon Music as well.