When my grandmother was a young woman, she landed a factory job at Fannie May and discovered to her surprise that the different patterns dribbled onto the chocolates were coded to reveal what was inside. A selection of bonbons decorates the cover of Soft Explosives (HitIt!), the third and latest full-length by Butterfly Child, and like those coded candies, its stately orch-pop confections are the result of precise and knowing workmanship. Irishman Joe Cassidy, an early 90s protege of protoshoegazers A.R.Kane, recorded the album in Chicago with engineer Chris Shepard (Smashing Pumpkins, Wilco) and a string quartet from the Lyric Opera; his breathlessly romantic Britpop floats in the stratosphere near the dreamier efforts of Oasis, the Verve, and the High Llamas. "Drunk on Beauty," the standout track, dresses its grandiose chorus in a hypnotic, three-note violin figure and culminates in Beach Boys harmonies, while the phased and backward guitar and cooing vocals of "Holy Hymn" recall John Lennon at his sweetest. Wisely, though, Cassidy usually drapes the icing around his plangent tenor, the most affecting instrument on the record--in contrast, the string instrumentals "Reprise" and "1929" are like the glaze without the doughnut. Onstage Butterfly Child is usually a one-man band (though HitIt! hopes to assemble a five-piece outfit around Cassidy and his guitar for a tour early next year); in Chicago Cassidy will be backed by a string quartet. He opens for Komeda and His Name Is Alive (see Peter Margasak's Critic's Choice), and what you're gonna get is some gorgeous renditions of his record's best tunes--so take that, Forrest Gump. Tuesday, 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508. J.R. JONES
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Brad Miller.