The Devil Glitch

Chris Butler

Future Fossil Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's not often I get to chat with someone who is in the Guiness Book Of World Records. My father once worked with the world's tallest man, Don Koehler, and I supposedly met him when I was about three years old -- true story. Unfortunately, I don't remember one iota of this encounter -- maybe the experience freaked the shit out of me and I've repressed the memories since then, I don't know.

But now I can claim I've chatted with someone who holds a world record -- Chris Butler is listed in the 1998 edition for recording the world's longest pop song. The Devil Glitch, the album which holds the song, is a sometimes interesting, sometimes bizarre listen, but one that I think everyone should experience -- if only to say that they have -- kind of like seeing Star Wars.

Butler, who first came to fame as a member of The Waitresses and wrote such hits as "I Know What Boys Like," seemed to stumble onto the concept of writing the longest pop song accidentally. He had composed a five-minute version, on which he featured 12 verses at the end of the song; according to the liner notes, while jamming with a member of Dots Will Echo (remember them, kids?) the concept of making the song longer came about. Voila -- a year later, with the help of many of his friends in the music industry, "The Devil Glitch" had morphed into a monster.

The idea of continuous musical pieces, of course, isn't new. Mike Oldfield did it with Tubular Bells, Jethro Tull did it with Thick As A Brick and A Passion Play. I don't think that Butler's goal was to claim such an idea as his own; in fact, a good portion of the credit (and some of the blame) should be evenly spread to the people who contributed to this project.

Let's first look at the short version. For a five-minute pop song, this is a very enjoyable effort. Butler, who rightfully could be called one of the fathers of alternative rock, immediately challenges the listener to accept the work on his terms -- not the mass market's. By giving the finger to commercialized music, Butler all but guarantees that my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Devil Glitch will be an obscure work -- but after hearing the short version of the song, it makes the search all the more worthwhile.

When it comes to the long version -- all 68 minutes, 53 seconds of it -- it's almost better to break listening to it up into chunks. Even I was not able to get through the whole thing in one sitting. I think there are two reasons for this:

First, for the most part, the "musical chunks" provided by outisde sources (all friends of Butler's) fail to really add their own voices and styles to the song. Often, these slabs sound like the same song with maybe one instrument added in or one effect thrown over the top of the mix. (There are exceptions -- poet Michael Baker drowns out the song with his free-verse style, members of Tin Huey do add a little kick to the groove, and the collaboration between Freedy Johnston and James MacMillan is interesting.)

Second - and this is possibly the biggest problem -- Butler fails to add any variety himself to the song. Almost without fail, he continues on the same two-chord progression for over 500 verses, and doesn't provide any different tempos or styles for the song. While I can appreciate the fact that he wanted to continue a theme ("Sometimes you can fix something..." starts each verse), but a break from monotony would have been greatly appreciated and welcomed. Something like the closing minute of the song, where Butler goes into a different, slower chord progression, would have been an improvement. Then again, this would have provided a whole different level of challenge, both to Butler and to the listener - maybe he felt he should leave well enough alone.

But after all these observations, one does have to admire the way that Butler et al. were able to keep coming up with new lyrical twists for the duration of the song - even working in a station identification in case any radio station wanted to play the whole thing. I have difficulties sometimes writing a simple record review some days - something which really has no pattern to follow. Butler constantly followed the pattern of the song and maintained a level of freshness - a goal all writers of any field would kill to achieve.

And it's not that "The Devil Glitch" is a bad song -- it's not. But it should be appreciated both as an artform and as a novelty -- I highly doubt there will be any musician out there gunning to top the length of "The Devil Glitch," and I'm not too eager to review any such effort in the near future. Butler rightfully shows why he still has magic as a songwriter and as a producer, and he does deserve the attention he's getting for this effort.

The Devil Glitch is one disc that must be experienced, though it's something you need only listen to once. For Butler, this represents his moment of immortality -- though I think he earned that right a long time ago for other efforts. Still, a decent enough effort, and one that makes me look forward to hearing other projects from him.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Future Fossil Records, and is used for informational purposes only.