WILL BUTLER – Friday Night (Merge): It’s not crazy to go on tour when all you’ve got to your name is an eight-track EP. What is crazy is recording one of those shows with the intent to release a live album longer than your studio one, especially when five of the thirteen songs on that live album are from your eight-track EP. Even crazier is having released a “Deluxe Edition” of that eight-track EP (which is normally just called an album—you know, like an LP, a Long Player) that has another two songs that show up on this live album. So now you’ve got thirteen tracks, seven of them available in studio form, one of them just a spoken-word introduction where Jill Firestone (?) implores the audience to boo Butler when he takes the stage, another basically a two-minute coda/jam to “Anna” (which is on the EP [both normal and deluxe!]), and an encore performance that’s nothing more than a sloppy improv number. That leaves you with three songs not on the Deluxe Edition of the EP, and only one of those new three (the title track, which is kind of deceptive given that this is a performance that was actually recorded on a Thursday) is pretty good.
All this is to say I don’t really understand the point. It’s not that the quality is bad (it’s about as good as you’ll get for a live recording) or that the performances are poor (Butler’s band sounds bigger than it is and has good timing). It’s just a weird idea to release a live album when you have so little material in your arsenal. I’m not saying it can’t be done—Derek & the Dominos only had that one album before releasing a live one, but they had the benefit of releasing a double LP (not an EP or even a “Deluxe” EP) and being a blues band, meaning most of their songs emerged from the muck of druggy jams that could be extended (for better or worse) to eat up time, not to mention there are seemingly infinite blues standards a band can tune to their own improvisatory frequency. Butler’s outfit is an indie rock band, though, not given to improv and apparently uninterested in covers. So you can convince yourself that there’s a reason this musical curio exists beyond bloating a discography. Or you can just do as I do and take Will’s advice to “take your little paw and cover your eyes” and pretend it’s Win instead. Just kidding. I pretend it’s Regine. B PLUS (*)