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BUTTERGLORY (Buy CDs by this artist)
Alexander Bends EP7 (Merge) 1992
Our Heads EP7 (Merge) 1993
Crumble (Merge) 1994
Cursive EP7 (Merge) 1994
Downed: A Singles Collection (Merge) 1995
Wait for Me EP7 (Merge) 1995
are you building a temple in heaven? (Merge) 1996
She's Got the Akshun! EP (Merge) 1996

Like Pavement and the Archers of Loaf, this lo-fi indie-rock duo (relocated to Lawrence, Kansas from Visalia, California) proves that pop songs can be instantly infectious even if it's hard to tell where they'll go next. Butterglory's songs are unpredictable, unpolished, off-kilter gems; they buzz with guitar feedback then drop back into catchy melodies with little warning. Despite the band's arty edge, though, there's not a single turkey of a tune amid all the fuzz and feedback of Crumble. Instead, Matt Suggs and Debby Vander Wall (the pair fills out the live sound with other musicians) craft loose, two-minute songs full of both razor-edge tension and, sometimes, disarming innocence. Songs like "Waiting on the Guns" and "The Skills of the Star Pilot" would be almost anthemic if not for their sloppy production values — which make them even more affecting.

Downed: A Singles Collection consists of eighteen songs originally released on the first four 7-inch EPs. The songs that post-date Crumble sound a bit more mature, perhaps a little better thought-out, than the earlier efforts, but nearly everything here is pretty similar to the first album. That's a good thing, though, and Butterglory's songs seem tailor-made for the collected singles format. Despite its method of assembly, Downed is an amazingly solid collection, far more consistent than many intentional albums.

Joined for its second album and subsequent tour by bassist Stephen Naron, Butterglory finds a more distinctive musical voice on are you building a temple in heaven? with more complex, slightly less chaotic-sounding songs. Unfortunately, some of them don't live up to the band's previous material. Textural tracks like "Boy Burning Down" and "The Lion Weeps Tonight" are effective in their own right, but they lack the raw energy of Butterglory's earlier work — not to mention this album's tense, feedback-filled gems, "Sit in the Car" and "Rivers." The three-song She's Got the Akshun! EP combines its title track — one of the album's stronger songs — with two previously unavailable tunes, one of which ("Places in Mind") is an exceptionally catchy song with the manic tension Butterglory brought to Crumble.

[Robert Levine]