Big bam boom
Marvelous 3 get louder and faster for ReadySexGo
If the modern rock radio format ever disappears, Marvelous 3's Butch Walker just might be safe from the whole apocalyptic disaster. Not only does he write killer melodies, but he can sing, too, and ReadySexGo, his band's follow-up to 1999's Hey! Album, is about as accessible as everyone's favorite high-school power ballad. And that's pretty darn mainstream, if memories of prom themes serve correctly (Bon Jovi's "Never Say Goodbye"). That's not to say the Atlanta band made a completely retro record. ReadySexGo's lyrics wouldn't be caught dead in '87 — lines like the openers to "Little Head" and "Supernatural Blonde" ("Waking up inside a river of ...") are far too racy for the Reagan years. But the slick guitars, overdubbed vocals and undeniable "big hair sound" — described in the liner notes as "the big Def Leppard sounding gang vocal " — was totally intentional, according to frontman Walker.
"We knew exactly what we wanted to do and we had no reservations about it," the doe-eyed singer explains, over a plate of conch fritters in a Little Five Points restaurant. "P2K — Pyromania 2000: We wanted this record to sound bigger than life, and that was our motto."
The band had a little help from producer Jerry Finn, who previously worked with Blink 182, the Goo Goo Dolls and Green Day. Walker describes the symbiosis between him and Finn, who are the same age, as an artistic "friction" that worked well in the studio. "He grew up on punk and new wave and I grew up on metal and new wave, and when we came together, one thing we both realized is that we really appreciate hooks."
ReadySexGo contains many prime hooks in tracks such as "Sugarbuzz," "Beautiful" and "Cigarette Lighter Love Song," a song "co-written" by Butch Walker and David Bowie. OK, so Walker didn't actually write with Bowie, but, he says, "my people called his people," leading to his legal use of a few bars of "All the Young Dudes" in the song's refrain. Bowie's melody gives the song its catchiness, but Walker's arrangement and vocal delivery are what beg for a repeat listen.
If his mid-range belting evoked Joe Jackson and Jon Bon Jovi on the choruses of Hey! Album, this time out Joe Elliott and Freddie Mercury comprise Walker's soundalike list. ("Radio Tokyo" comes off like a brilliant, rock-opera combination of Def Leppard's "Rock of Ages" and Queen's "Radio Ga Ga"). While his voice has stretched nicely to fit ReadySexGo's "bigger is better" mantra, many of Walker's sweeter, more subtle inflections (like those found on Hey! Album's "Write in on Your Hand" and "Indie Queen") have, sadly, been left behind.
Walker is very proud of Hey! Album's success, particularly "Freak of the Week," but also believes one song alone can't do the job of defining a band. Like Radiohead's "Creep," "Freak" captured fans of self-loathing anthems, but is just the tip of the lyrical iceberg as far as Marvelous 3 are concerned.
Walker is fully aware of the kitsch-and-cheese value of his amalgamated childhood exploits, apparent in ReadySexGo's verses, loaded with pop-culture references, to its headbanging moments. Not too many bands would be brave enough to openly express their love for hair metal, but Walker describes his band's approach to making ReadySexGo as a rebellion against the norm. "It was almost punk in how we were doing it," he says of his and Finn's production process. "It made us laugh, we were having so much fun." Walker acknowledges a desire for his final product to be, in some form or fashion, "radio ready," but says record making still has to be a personal process of "making art."
At 20, Walker was living in Hollywood pursuing his musical dreams; at 25, he was back in Atlanta, driving a $100 Volvo. Today, at 30, he talks about relationships with former record companies and industry contacts as if they were old friends who just came and went on a whim. Now a Calvin Klein model, Walker makes a pretty convincing rock star, too; his not-too-perfectly fringed hair frames a face at once handsomely weathered and boyish, and today at lunch, his half-chipped metallic blue fingernail polish, '70s army T-shirt and obligatory studded belt earn him a few extra points for looking hip even when he's just cruising his home turf.
Marvelous 3 give plenty props to their home turf on ReadySexGo. From the girl who has a shop in "Grant Park" to "driving out of East Atlanta" in "Cigarette Lighter Love Song," Walker still writes the kind of lyrics that made Hey!Album feel like such a documentary of twentysomething life in big-city suburbia. Only this time around, everything in his world view — including cars, women, guitars and hair — is much, much bigger.
Marvelous 3 play a CD release party at the Roxy, Fri., Sept. 8. Show time is 8 p.m. Tickets are $17.50, available through Ticketmaster.