THOSE conversant with the sprightly guitar-based pop-rock produced around the British Commonwealth over the last decade -- whether by the Jazz Butcher or such stylistic familiars as the Smiths, Robyn Hitchcock or the Church -- will not be surprised by the Butcher's latest, "Condition Blue." They should, however, be pleased. "Blue" is not especially distinctive, but it has charm to burn.
Although decorated with strings, saxes and female backing vocals, songs such as "Girls Say Yes" and "Our Friends the Filth" (the most Church-like track) are defined by their ringing rhythm guitars, which alternately saunter or rave (as they do, most notably, to end "Racheland"). Unsurprisingly, a frequent topic of the songs written by the Butcher (whose actual name is Pat Fish) is romance (and romantic obsession). Whether observing the objects of his affection at close hand ("She's a Yo-Yo") or at a remove ("I've had a thing about Shirley MacLaine since I was so high" he sings in a tune named for the actress), the Butcher employs a vulnerable-adolescent persona characteristic of the genre. That can be a little precious, but the Butcher and company more than compensate by getting their guitars to jingle-jangle just so.
THE JAZZ BUTCHER -- "Condition Blue" (Sky). Appearing Friday with the Eggs at the 9:30 club. To hear a Sound Bite from this album, call 202/334-9000 and press 8124.