The Jazz Butcher – The Highest in the Land (2022) [FLAC 24bit/44,1kHz]

The Jazz Butcher – The Highest in the Land (2022)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 36:09 minutes | 383 MB | Genre: Pop Rock, Jangle Pop
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Tapete Records

It’s not often that an artist gets to do a Bowie by consciously carving their personal epitaph into the grooves of their final LP. The Highest in the Land is that rarity of an album, and it could not have been made by a more brilliantly poetic and fearlessly sarcastic writer than Pat Fish, also known as The Jazz Butcher.

‘My hair’s all wrong / My time ain’t long / Fishy go to Heaven, get along, get along,’ he sings, to a ticking-clock beat in ‘Time’, rhyming its title with ‘a one-way ticket to a pit of Council lime’ in just one of many existentially charged moments on a record whose songs were written throughout the last seven years of Fish’s life before his untimely passing in October 2021, aged only 63. ‘Self-knowledge, urgency,’ he wrote as a comment to this song in his private notes to the album’s producer Lee Russell, ‘He’d been around the block. and knew he was on the last lap.”We had closure,” Russell remembers, “We had worked together for three months, and then on the last day I drove him home. And for the first time we hugged and said goodbye, and that was it.’

Recent years have seen a long overdue re-appreciation of The Jazz Butcher catalogue, all the way back to that astonishing 11-album run of the first 13 years of their career, now celebrated and handily compiled in a series of box-sets after decades of shameful neglect.

Released just after the death of Pat Fish, the Jazz Butcher’s guiding light, The Highest in the Land is a fitting epitaph to a career spent balancing gentle sophistication and raucous humor while delivering some of the oddest, most affecting pop music of the post-punk and indie pop era. Written over a span of many years and recorded with a small band featuring long-time cohort Max Eider on guitar, the record is a relaxed affair musically, relying on the sparse sound of a small band playing, never working up much of a lather while jangling quietly and leaving plenty of space for Fish’s undiminished vocals and mordant wit. His focus is split between railing against Brexit and the isolation from the rest of the world it entailed, and his own mortality. It’s clear from his lyrical position that the bout with cancer he fought — and seemed to have won before he suddenly passed — affected him deeply. The laid-back blues ramble “Time” looks back at his life with an unvarnished eye and laments presciently that “the time’s running out.” Other tracks take a similar unflinching lyrical approach, but in a more nuanced way musically. The achingly sad “Never Give Up” proudly takes its place in the pantheon of the Jazz Butcher’s finest ballads, an aspect of their career that was often overlooked in favor of their peppy material. This song, the lilting “Sea Madness,” and the incredibly moving “Goodnight Sweetheart” give lie to any notion that the band were some kind of frivolous endeavor. Fish was able to rip the listener’s heart out, beat it up a bit, and reinsert it with a devilish grin, and the songs here that do it are the best of the batch. On the flip side of all that pain are the perkier tracks like “Melanie Hargreaves’ Father’s Jaguar” and “Running on Fumes,” both jaunty examples of Fish’s ability to take seemingly simple and fun music, give it a dark or pointed twist, and make it a Jazz Butcher track through and through. This dual-pronged attack of laughs and tears is something he spent a long time delivering in his one-of-kind way, and it’s nice that he was able to release one more excellent album before departing. The Highest in the Land may not be the strongest Jazz Butcher release, but it certainly has enough frothy treats and swooning bits of heartbreak to remind everyone why they — and Fish — were so delightful. – Tim Sendra

Tracklist:
1-01. The Jazz Butcher – Melanie Hargreaves’ Father’s Jaguar (04:14)
1-02. The Jazz Butcher – Time (05:25)
1-03. The Jazz Butcher – Sea Madness (04:02)
1-04. The Jazz Butcher – Never Give Up (04:34)
1-05. The Jazz Butcher – Amalfi Coast May 1963 (02:23)
1-06. The Jazz Butcher – Running on Fumes (03:32)
1-07. The Jazz Butcher – The Highest in the Land (04:09)
1-08. The Jazz Butcher – Sebastian’s Medication (03:49)
1-09. The Jazz Butcher – Goodnight Sweetheart (03:56)

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