The Jazz Butcher

Dr Cholmondley Repents: A-Sides, B-Sides and Seasides

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Dr Cholmondley Repents: A-Sides, B-Sides and Seasides Review

by Tim Sendra

Part of being a fan of the Jazz Butcher is reveling in the surprises Pat Fish and his band of merry mischief makers dole out like favors at a children's birthday party. Most of their albums hold together thematically and musically, standing as some of the best music made anywhere during the '80s and '90s. Where things got weird was on the band's singles -- more specifically the B-sides -- as well as compilation appearances and one-offs. While their singles and albums were mostly made up of witty and thoughtful guitar pop, it was anyone's guess where they might travel once out of the spotlight. Ragtime jazz, western waltzes, twisted cabaret crooning, gentlemanly rapping -- almost anything was fair game, as 2021's four-disc collection Dr Cholmondley Repents: A-Sides, B-Sides and Seasides proves. It's made up of tracks recorded between 1984 and 1994 by various incarnations of the group and it's a marvelous mess. Apart from a few early singles like 1983's brilliantly perky Suicide-rip "Southern Mark Smith," most of the first disc is made up of extended mixes of some of their finest pop moments, like the absolutely gorgeous ballads "Angels" and "Girl Go," the big pop/rocker "New Invention," the jangle pop treat "Sweetwater," and the raging punk kiss of "Sixteen Years." As one might expect, it isn't the most coherent listening experience. The next two discs swing from vine to vine like drunken monkeys, grabbing up horrorbilly ("Death Dentist"), smooth tango ballads ("South America"), heartbreaking electric piano ballads ("Mersey"), silly dance pop ("Excellent"), apocalyptic campfire songs ("Big Old Wind"), raging guitar rock ("Rebecca Wants Her Bike Back"), and bedroom demos, of which there are quite a few. Fish was a daredevil as a songwriter, a fearless performer, and a dynamic bandleader, and even his goofs are as compelling as most people's hits. These two discs aren't for everyone, but Jazz Butcher fans should revel in the collected delights. They should be even more thrilled by the fourth disc, which contains a live, high-sound-quality radio session recorded in 1989 for KCRW. It's the Jazz Butcher at the high point of their jangle years. During the first half of the set, the guitars chime like overloaded bells as they run through "hits" like "New Inventions," "Angels," "Girl Go," and "Bad Dream Lover." Things get weirder as more songs are added to the mix, and they indulge their silly side on tracks like "The Jazz Butcher Meet the Prime Minister" and "King of Joy" before ending up with the red-hot rocker "Looking for Lot 49." This session goes a long way toward summing up the joys and happy challenges of the Jazz Butcher, and it's a great service to the band's fans to have it available in such fine company. The collection is bittersweet due to Fish's passing a few months before its release, but as an epitaph to his wild and wonderful career, it would be harder to think of anything better.

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