England's The Jazz Butcher were one of those bands who got lumped in with the C86 explosion, the flowering of Creation Records talent -- (the first or second ones, at least) -- and who knows what other wave of another set of bands. Despite that hard to pin down-ness, The Jazz Butcher make witty, heartfelt indie of the sort that has rewarded listeners for 30 years so far. The esteemed Fire Records outfit has now begun an impressive Jazz Butcher re-issue project with the first release being 2012's The Last of the Gentleman Adventurers.
Out today on Fire Records, the album is a delight. If the band has mellowed a tiny bit with age, the music and lyrics here are still as elegant and snappy as they always were. So it's safe to say that Pat Fish and his crew have rarely sounded better.
"Shame on You" rings with the sort of jangle that the best jangle rock bands perfected in an earlier era. That the music of Pat Fish and Max Eider predated that term says a lot and it would be perhaps unfair to label this music so easily. Similarly, the languid title cut and the insinuating "Count Me Out" beguile a listener with something beyond just simple alt-pop charms, while "All The Saints" reminds one of the best Wreckless Eric or Joe Jackson cuts but with better guitar-work throughout. Things are somewhat subdued in spots on The Last of the Gentleman Adventurers but it's appreciated when the material is as strong as "Saints Prayer" or "Shakey" which captivate with the hint of real jazz throughout both. Recalling both Grant McLennan and Robert Forster solo albums, The Last of the Gentleman Adventurers (2012) is a perfect example of how to do smart indie that doesn't belabor its smarts. Like those ex-Go-Betweens, Pat Fish, Max Eider, and the rest of the players in The Jazz Butcher have a sense of their own talents. That this set of material is so strong, even if a bit down-tempo, helps too.
Look, despite being a fan of this band from nearly 30 years ago, and being on the 'Net as it were, I somehow didn't know about this record until fairly recently and that's sad. This is a beautiful album that should reward long-time fans of The Jazz Butcher, or simply new fans who appreciate an expert blending of chamber pop and indie rock.