Monday, July 24, 2023

CD Odyssey Disc 1661: The Jazz Butcher

Welcome to Monday! Don’t despair at such a welcome – it is 8 p.m. Unless you’re on the nightshift, your day is already done. And if you are on the nightshift then why are reading this? Back to work!

Disc 1661 is…Last of the Gentleman Adventurers

Artist: The Jazz Butcher

Year of Release: 2012

What’s up with the Cover?  In Victorian times when a gentleman went adventuring, his last night was spent engaged in carnal delights with his devoted wife. If the gentleman adventurer was a bachelor, he would engage in carnal delights with the wife of a neighbour. In such situations she would wear dark glasses and he a deep-sea diving helmet, in order to preserve their dignity and the dignity of the community at large. Given that their identities where thus protected, it was customary to take a commemorative photo pre-coitus, which is what we have preserved here.

The system was hardly foolproof, as the following morning invariably found some single adventuring type leaving town, while down the street a flushed-faced woman waved goodbye with a bit more enthusiasm than occasion demanded.

OK, that’s all pretend, but would that all album covers could inspire such tall tales.

How I Came To Know It: I read a review of the Jazz Butcher’s most recent (and last) album, “Highest in the Land” (reviewed very recently at Disc 1645). This caused me to not only get that record, but also to dig into the back catalogue. Despite the Jazz Butcher having 14 studio albums, I only liked these two.

How It Stacks Up: When I reviewed “The Highest in the Land” I gave it second place to see if “Last of the Gentleman Adventurers” could beat it. Turns out…it can. This is the best of the Jazz Butcher’s two best records.

Rating: 4 stars

What do you get if you cross the Cure with Nick Cave with maybe a hint of Belle and Sebastian? You get the Jazz Butcher (aka Pat Fish) a musical artist who does just whatever the hell he pleases, with the commercial success you’d expect from such self-indulgence.

Fortunately, I could give a fig about commercial success and if the self-indulgence makes for good tunes, I could care less about that as well. Fish writes beautiful songs in all manner of styles, but the one unifying factor is an easy, carefree delivery.

Even when the Jazz Butcher is singing about unhappy break ups and the slow grind of the world, he always sounds at ease with the situation. He exudes a sort of mellow resignation that makes you think of smoking cigarettes in Paris. These songs are the musical equivalent of effortlessly dodging dog shit on the sidewalk, all the while never taking your eyes off the grandeur of the Eiffel Tower.

The album is filled with examples of this devil-may-care approach to life, but maybe none better than the title track, with delicious stanzas like:

“We were the hard water kids of the Asbestos Age - no one died
Nobody chipped us or tracked us or caged us or taught us to fear. No one tried
So we helped ourselves to the world unafraid
Sometimes we even got paid
Well, now I've spent all that money I earned
But here is one thing I have learned:
There's nothing in life that's worth giving up
For the sake of five years in the Sunset Retirement Home”

Whether he’s channeling Robert Smith or Nick Cave, the songs have a universal lilt to them that sway along free and easy. Not like a boat rocking at sea so much as the light pitch of a sailboat tied to the docks as you board to drink a daiquiri with your lady love.

Like Cave, Fish is a born poet, and “The Last of the Gentleman Adventurers features his best stuff. The mix of femme fatale and old man desire on “Mercy” is particularly juicy, as Fish catches a glimpse of a beautiful woman with…

“She steps right off the pages of a book that's long been banned
And into the saloon bar, where I'm waiting for my man
It's ludicrous. She's luminous. I can't stay in the room
The pathology of passion says that I shall be consumed”

Beyond the lyrics, “Mercy” has some fine playing, including a guitar that is mellow and rich, and leaves you in the smoky embrace of the bar scene described above, with Fish ending the tune with a repeated refrain of “mercy, there’s no beauty without cruelty.”

My copy of the album is a reprint with a delicious review/promotional piece by writer Alan Moore taking up the majority of the inside fold. I’ve tried to show my love for the Jazz Butcher above, but Moore’s write up is as good as I’ve ever read about an album, and I’ll leave the last words to him:

“Follow at your peril, from the trail of snapped conventions left behind him, to a province still outside captivity. I’ll see you there.”

Best tracks: The Last of the Gentleman Adventurers, You Can Count Me Out, All the Saints, Mercy, Shakey 

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