Marvelous 3 – IV

IV is the fourth full-length from Marvelous 3. But to call it a fourth album would be extremely misleading.

A quick history lesson:

Butch Walker, Jayce Fincher and Mitch “Slug” McLee alongside vocalist Jesse Harte spent the late 80’s/early 90’s on the Sunset Strip as hair-metal outfit SouthGang. They released two albums before splitting with Harte and regrouping as Floyd’s Funk Revival (later The Floyds) with Walker sharing frontman duties with new singer Chystina Lloree for another pair of albums before also disbanding.

Walker originally conceived Marvelous 3 as a solo project, but inevitably enlisted Slug and Fincher to join him once more. After three albums, the trio split and Butch went on his own for keeps – launching a lengthy solo career and an even more prolific run as a producer. (check his wikipedia page for the list. It’s a long one)

Seemingly out of nowhere, 22 years removed from their breakup, Butch Walker’s socials rebranded as “Marvelous 3” generating a groundswell of excitement from a seemingly abandoned rabid/loyal/patient fanbase. Sure enough, an announcement was made for IV and a handful of reunion shows. Those shows made Atlanta (and to a lesser extent Chicago) a Mecca of sorts for Marvelous 3 faithful around the world.

Counting myself among the rabid/loyal/patient bunch, I made a point to be in attendance for those shows. But I was hesitant to dive into IV. What could I expect? Surely this wouldn’t be the same Marvelous 3 from 2001. Between M3’s third and then-final album ReadySexGo and IV, Walker had released a literal dozen records (If you include 1969’s Maya – which you should) and he had gone through a dozen transformations with each one, morphing from leather-clad hedonist to sensitive-songsmith to denim-clad hedonist (with motorcycle) to E-street-would-be to piano-bar-lifer and many others personas in between. And to be fair, Walker had been reinventing himself with each successive M3 release.

So we are presented with IV – and Marvelous 3 has leaned into the double-entendre, using intravenous bags in the marketing, representing a new infusion of life for sure. But, as one would expect after 22 years, the band sounds 22 years older. It’s a solid rock record. But it eschews the punk energy from Math And Other Problems or Hey! Album. And it’s as if the arena-sized ReadySexGo never existed. Gone are the raunchy jokes heard in “Supernatural Blonde” or “Lefty”. Walker’s voice is in fine form, but the snottiness that oozed all over past M3 efforts is nowhere to be found.

The prevailing theme of IV is the inevitable march of time. The tales of sex and drugs are replaced with sentiments of being forced to slow down – as expressed on “PTSD (Post Touring Singer’s Depression).” Tracks like “My Old School Metal Heart” and “Growing All My Hair Out” are loaded with wistfulness and regret. “If We’re On Fire (Let It Burn)” unabashedly name-drops blasts from the past Drowning Pool and Panic! At The Disco. Even uptempo rocker “Jackie and Tina” is littered with desperate attempts to re-capture the past. A cover of a song Walker loved in his youth – The Producers’ “She Sheila” (released in 1982) is included before the finale: the appropriately titled “Curtains”.

Ultimately and to his credit, there are no recycled ideas on IV. Walker has too much integrity to rehash the old hits. IV has all of Walker’s storytelling and hooks intact and is a fine record in its own right. If we ever get a fifth Marvelous 3 release we can count on it being a unique and interesting excursion in a new direction. But as a concept, IV has its eyes set firmly on the rearview, and as I stood at those reunion shows among the Marvelous faithful, all of us squeezed into decades-old t-shirts with our sore backs and knees, I wondered if we needed such a stark reminder just how far we’ve come from our glory days.