December 08, 2017
Granted, sneaking into shows back in the day was much easier than it is now. But The Jazz Butcher helped me through high school, and I never thought that Pat Fish and company would ever tour Texas. When they came on, I instantly noticed how awful the sound man was messing with them, causing an oversaturation of feedback for a band that played clean notes on record. After all, I didn't come to see Spacemen 3.
Nostalgia is poisonous, however; yet, listening to The Wasted Years reminded me that freely and carelessly leaping into the past is necessary, even if there is no antidote for it.
Ironically pretentious, The Jazz Butcher reissue their first four albums in book form. In Bath of Bacon, A Scandal in Bohemia, Sex and Travel, and Distressed Gentlefolk are stark contrasts to the wave of the darkened sounds of the post-punk era. Imagine Ween's absurdist hilarity wrapped in The Fall's sound. Most of In Bath of Bacon, the band's first release, was recorded on Pat Fish's Amstead 7090, a "cheap and cheerful tool for those hell-bent in killing music through the medium of home taping." The songs still bite sharply into Thatcher's England like the Gang of Four with a sense of humor. "Sex Engine Thing" emasculates men who pride themselves on their delusional abilities to be pick-up artists. They also had a theme like the jazz music's swing era that fiercely brutalized jazz music improvisation called "Jazz Butcher Theme." The Jazz Butcher also openly mocked their contemporaries with tracks like "Grey Flannelette" and "Zombie Love." They stepped on throats with a cheeky smile and juvenalian satire.
David J, Bauhaus' bassist and "author of Bela Lugosi's Dead" joined the The Jazz Butcher after Bauhaus' demise, which permitted him to explore a less theatrical approach to playing music with Pat Fish and Max Eider. Bauhaus were the ultimate pomp and pretentiousness The Jazz Butcher weren't, and David J's addition made A Scandal in Bohemia work. David J already performed using a fretless electric bass, so songs like "Real Men" and "Just Like Betty Page" made the band's weird aesthetic tight. The rhythm section kept their angular riffs from falling apart.
It is rare to say this about a reissue, but the textual history provided by Fish makes this a must-have for any fan of The Jazz Butcher. Not to mention that Brian Pyles' remastered tracks permit fans to listen again to these great records without noticing a pristine cleansing of them. Their history isn't a tumultuous one. Fish's dry wit is felt throughout the retrospective like many of his songs' lyrics. As Fish pointedly states, after 1986, "The balance was never quite right after David left." David J went on to form Love and Rockets and their big hit, "So Alive," diminished any possibility of him returning to The Jazz Butcher in the immediate future.
Beyond any real comparison, The Jazz Butcher were an incomparable genre-bending act that requires a substantive re-evaluation. Between the pages and the artwork of this reissue lies a time capsule of a time that is just as pertinent today as the time when it was created.
Author rating: 9/10