When the John Butler Trio released their previous album, Grand National in 2007 it was met with acclaim, but also criticism that the trio had ‘sold out’. Gone were the instrumentals and double-digit minute jams to be replaced with radio-friendly rock and pop.
The band has continued to rise in popularity since Zebra was released seven years ago, and since then every tour around Australia has sold out. Even though their shows continue to sell so well, the band continues to be a significant, but more importantly independent force on the Australian music scene.
The album starts with Revolution, with this track building upon new bass player (never a bassist) Byron Luiters until, like so many JBT songs it becomes a loud sing-along. This runs into lead single One Way Road and the fun, if silly C’mon Now. It wouldn’t be a John Butler album without an obvious political tune, and Johnny’s Gone, about our last Prime Minister fills this nicely.
After second single Close To You, and what could be described as country-punk tune Don’t Wanna See Your Face the album ends with songs that would seem more familiar to listeners of their previous work. The album will probably introduce new audiences around the world to the band, who will hopefully then go back and discover his back catalogue.
If you’ve never experienced JBT’s great live show they will be touring the country in August and September. Even if you have seen the band before the new bass player and drummer have different styles to their predecessors, with the bass player bringing a funk to their older stuff we’ve never seen before.
April Uprising may be more commercial, more rock than roots and more hit-and-miss in its societal swipes, but there are enough good songs on the album to make it worth a listen. Its messages are not going to cause revolution, but if this album results in some people thinking more about the political landscape then John Butler and his trio have done their job.