The Jazz Butcher
The Jazz Butcher Press Butcher in creative trouble - November 28, 1989
Published: The Gateway (Alberta, Canada) November 28, 1989 Credit: ;;
The associated Gig: 1989-11-25 Item added: 2023-11-08

Butcher in creative trouble


The Jazz Butcher is sort of a “he” and sort of a “they”. “He” is Pat Fish, a goofy sort of chap from Northampton, England, who never really expected to get famous. The “they” is because these days it’s not entirely clear whether “The Jazz Butcher” refers to just Mr. Fish, or to his whole band.

The show on Saturday night didn’t look like a sellout, but there were plenty of people having fun. People like the two rather “confused” individuals who fell into the speakers in rapid succession! Most of the crowd was a bit better-behaved than that, though.

The Jazz Butcher opened up with “New Invention”, from their latest record, Big Planet, Scary Planet. The next half hour of the show was entirely made up of songs from this LP and the previous record, Fishcoteque. This newer material received polite applause, but the audience didn’t get really excited until the band drifted into older territory, like “Big Saturday”, and ”Angels”.

After the show, when | asked my friends, the consensus was “hmmm...... yeah, it was ok.” When pressed for details, they all seemed to agree that the older songs made the show. Songs like “Bicycle Kid” and “New Invention” were tight, but they didn’t have that special something that oozed out of the earlier songs.

What we witnessed on Saturday night was basically a talent that is in serious creative trouble. It’s not just the self-indulgent noodling about with tape loops that we’ve seen on the last two albums. Nor is it the ultra-tight rhythm section, which has given the butcher a calm foundation in exchange for the crazoid mania they used to have. I think the problem is that they’ve tried, quite unsuccessfully, to become more sophisticated. There’s nothing wrong with progressing, but The Jazz Butcher seems to have moved from something they were good at, into a morass of directionless mediocrity.

There’s nothing really wrong with songs like “Chickentown” and Bad Dream Lover,” but they just don’t have that mix of wit and poignancy that older songs had. At one time, the Jazz Butcher had something to say about going down to the pub, partying with a bunch of friends, getting drunk and silly, and using it all to disguise the fact that you’re dying inside. From the naive clarity of ”Partytime” to the wigged-out “Devil is my Friend”, their songs worked because they were sincere, and everyone could relate to them. But now the Jazz Butcher has grown up, travelled this big scary planet, and gotten swallowed by it. Perhaps they'll find some direction, but right now they’ve lost their roots, and can’t find anything concrete to stand on.

Though it was a very tight set, the show just didn’t have enough energy or substance. Longtime fans heard enough of their old faves to keep them happy, but newcomers curious about The Jazz Butcher probably were a bit underwhelmed. They would have been better off spending the $13.25 on an earlier record, like Bloody Nonsense or Distressed Gentlefolk. Sure, everyone had fun, but Dinwoodie gets better shows for much less money.

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