Jazz Butcher

Condition Blue

Sky Records, 1991

I'm a longtime fan of the Jazz Butcher. I've enjoyed his sensitive- wiseass lyrics through a number of musical styles ranging from cocktail jazz through jangle-pop to fuzzbox freakouts. His last few albums have been more consistent in style, mainly an increasingly drony rock sound. They've also been increasingly disappointing to me; his last album, "Cult of the Basement", has a few great songs amidst a lot that I can't even remember.

With "Condition Blue", though, the Butcher has made a major comeback. He's continued to explore the droning guitar sounds, but coupled that with some of the catchiest songs he's written in years, and increased contributions from longtime associate Alex Green on sax. There's a consistent texture to this album more than a consistent sound -- the Bo Diddley beat and goofy lyrics of "Shirley Maclaine" ("I've had a thing about Shirley Maclaine since I was so high") is a long way from the moody ballad "Racheland" ("these are the hardest times"), yet they don't seem out of place next to one another.

The lyrics convey a sense of detachment, like they're coming to us from a long way away. Combined with the droning sounds and long songs -- over 6 minutes each on average -- the overall effect is of an album that washes over you in the way some of the so-called "shoegazer" albums do -- not that this has much in common with My Bloody Valentine beyond that. In spite of that detached feeling, this is a curiously affecting album, and my favorite from the Butcher since "Fishcotheque".

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