Music Reviews

The Jazz Butcher: The Wasted Years – Album review

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The Wasted Years (Fire Records)

CD/DL

Released: 20 October, 2017

08/10

4CD retrospective from those witty purveyors of indie rock, The Jazz Butcher. 

The Jazz Butcher were one of those undervalued indie bands that proliferated in the 80s. Fronted by Pat Fish, with a perfect guitar foil in Max Eider, and joined for a while by a Bauhaus, they sounded like a Monochrome Set/Smiths/Everything But The Girl mash up. Between 1983 and 1986 the Butcher released four albums and a string of 45s for Glass Records. The four albums, long out of print, have been released in a deluxe box set by Fire Records. It feels long over-due, like welcoming back a much loved eccentric uncle who you last saw popping out for some ready rub twenty years ago.

Bath of Bacon, their first album for Glass, has the feel of a confident band knocking off songs inspired by long drunken nights and parties involving too many illegal substances. It feels like a band not quite fully formed. But there are great songs here. There’s the happy hour in the abattoir of the Jazz Butcher Theme, the wonderful mellow guitar and clever lyrics of Party Time, the rockabilly vibes of Bigfoot Motel, the dangers of Zombie Love, and the wonderful Girls Who Keep Goldfish, which is about…er…girls who keep goldfish.

For their next album, A Scandal In Bohemia, the Butcher are joined by David J. of Bauhaus, and it hits the ground running and never lets up. I hadn’t listened to the album in many years and had forgotten just how bloody good it was. This is a band on top form, with a great mixture of clever, quirky, moving songs that once heard, always remain in the mind. It opens with the glorious smooth pop of Southern Mark Smith; a song that in any other universe would have been a smash hit. Maybe it still is. Real Men is a cutting indictment of the male sex. When Fish sings: ‘They ask punk rockers if they’re queer’ and ‘Real men beat up blacks and faggots’, you can’t help but wonder if anything has changed since this classic was first cut. Soul Happy Hour is possibly the greatest song written about drinking ever. Marnie is a stupendous song, falling down like heavy snow on the steppes of mother Russia. A big band back beat to a song about Marnie who is going a little crazy. Alternative songs of the 80s were replete with slightly off kilter, if not crazy, women. Will the snows never cease? Marnie wants to keep wild cats in her room. And why not? Caroline Wheeler’s Birthday Party is a hard rocking, heavy sounding pummelling of the brain with some crazy man rumbling, mumbling ‘Esther’, whilst Fish propounds on ‘big’ things. It’s a song made entirely from the skin of dead Jim Morrisons. Mind Like A Playgroup is a perfectly reasonable philosophy, which features Danny Hopkins, of post-punk band Isolation, on rubber duck. Girlfriend is another perfectly crafted little pop song, with a tune that raises you up and drops you down. It’s moments of teenage love perfectly recounted.

 

 

Sex and Travel, their third album, continues in much the same vein, but with a sense of the songs being better constructed and more thought being put into the actual process of writing and recording. It’s a mesmerising mix of sophisti-pop and indie, with a dash of cynicism, weirdness, and a cutting sense of humour. The Human Jungle is sultry, clever pop. Big Saturday is a cross between Everything But The Girl and the Monochrome Set, with lush arrangement and production by John A. Rivers. The typewriter driven rhythm of Holiday recounts the adventures of an Englishman abroad, whilst Only A Rumour is a stunningly beautiful song about how to cope, or not, around other people after a break-up. Walk With The Devil has an excellent opening and build up, until you can almost feel the winter weather in your face and the coldness of your heart. A bitter, beautiful break-up song. The guitar line is as brutal and clear as the vocalist’s brush-off. The album ends with Down The Drain. It’s a quirky little number about drinking, which is funny, and then devastating.

The final album in this set is Distressed Gentlefolk. Here we find the Butcher producing more polished pop songs that pillage the decades to try and create an instant classic. It’s not quite that, but it’s still a forgotten beauty. It opens with the country rock of Falling In Love. Still In The Kitchen has a melancholic, psychedelic sound akin to the Velvet Underground. There’s the jaunty rockabilly of Hungarian Love Song, and the jazzy late night feel of The New World. Domestic Animals muses on those pets who don’t get sex in the spring like their wild cousins. Nothing Special is a lively pop song about doing nothing special. The album is closed by Angels, a melancholic song that sounds like the morning after the night before when something really bad happened.

The Jazz Butcher existed in that part of our lives which was always student digs, disappointing parties and long nights wondering about the meaning of it all with a wry, quirky sense of humour. The songs are full of nervous love affairs in elevators going nowhere and parties of the mind where everything slips into chaotic reality. They are a band well worth re-visiting or discovering for the first time. A release very much recommended.

~

You can find The Jazz Butcher on line here, and are on Facebook.

This review first appeared on Louder Than War

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Music Reviews

Julie & The Wrong Guys: Julie & The Wrong Guys – Album review

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Julie & The Wrong Guys (Dine Alone Records)

Released: 8 September, 2017

08/10

Canadian super group fronted by Julie Doiron unleash debut album. 

Julie & The Wrong Guys blast out of your speakers  from Canada, and what an excellent noise they make. They are fronted by Julie Doiron, something of a Canadian rock hero who was in the band Eric’s Trip at the age of eighteen, backed by the Cancer Bats rhythm section of Mike Peters and Jaye Schwarzer, and with Eamon McGrath on guitar. This is a return to a grunge, garage based rock that uses Doiron’s beautiful voice as a foil, a juxtaposing, against the fuzzed out, heavy beat rock of the band. It works best when the heaviness of the music anchors you in place whilst the vocals soar and swirl; a light yet strong vocal counterpointing the harsher edged band.

Many of the songs are about lost loves and relationships floundering on the rocks of boredom and a missing sense of direction. There is a nostalgia, a longing for the excitement and shared sense of direction that the relationships had at the start. The harsh, often brutal, but sometimes mesmerizingly uplifting music, acts as a counterpoint to Doiron’s vocals that often sound as if they might break under the emotional strain. Images of water also permeate the lyrics (perhaps not surprisingly for a New Brunswick native), like memories eddying and pulling her down, or holding her back. The water acts as a metaphor for the fluidity of life, of love, of memories.

The album opens with Love and Leaving and sets the scene perfectly. It has a distorted, fuzzy, heavy sound with the vocals soaring over it all in a breathless, relentless beat. Lead off single You Wanted What I Wanted has punk attitude in spades, with the lyrics, about a relationship gone bad, as sharp as barbed wire. It pummels along with a great beat, building up into an optimistic finish about fresh starts.

Condescending You originally appeared on a Doiron solo album of 1997 which, in the hands of the Wrong Guys, becomes a towering rocker that hits every mark with a brutal punch. Heartbeats is a great break-up song. The lyrics heartbreakingly describing the moment when the future you thought you were going to have is ripped away with just a few words from your lover. The song builds up with unrelenting tension and anger – but the heart must go on. Tracing My Own Lines is a slower song with an ominous, almost psychedelic feel to it. Call My Own Shots is a song about all the self-doubts that can hold us back, can even stop us getting out of bed in the morning. It’s about finding the energy and the belief to go on, and not be ‘bullied by yesterday’. Farther From You is a heavy, pounding rocker that was originally written during a Cancer Bats’ session but never used by the band. Calm Before The Storm is a beautiful song, the vocals like an elegy to the sea, about that moment that we can look back on and see as a brief moment before everything went crazy. Broken Pieces/Barely Cold is another song about a broken love affair. The singer walks away with nothing to show for the time given to the relationship. The album closes with Hope Floats. The song has a disconcerting sound to open it. There is a sense of being lost, of wandering, of water spinning you out of control. It all builds up to a majestic, operatic, ending to the song and the album.

Julie & The Wrong Guys have crafted an album that is a perfect garage band album full of nuances that reward on repeated play. Recommended.

~

You can find Julie & The Wrong Guys on line here, and are on Facebook and Twitter.

This review first appeared on Louder Than War