Essential New Music: The Jazz Butcher’s “The Wasted Years”

For a prolific musical project with nearly as many compilations as official releases, it makes sense that the Jazz Butcher—a.k.a. Pat Fish and whoever was sprinkled about his orbit over the years—would break a five-year silence with a four-disc set reassembling the group’s earliest releases. The Wasted Years is anything but—Fish and Co. were marvelously out of step with contemporary pop chart tastes back in the early 1980s, spinning British eccentricity into fool’s gold with albums that veered wildly from a stylistic standpoint. 1983 debut In Bath Of Bacon was essentially a Pat Fish solo album in Jonathan Richman mode; later efforts such as 1984’s A Scandal In Bohemia leaned faux-folk, while 1985’s terrific Sex And Travel included a lineup featuring Bauhaus’ David J. that traded in story/songs Ray Davies might’ve recognized. Stylishly repackaged with lovingly crafted liner notes to match, The Wasted Years finds Fish polishing his legacy with work resembling what Syd Barrett might’ve sounded like if his vice was closer to cross-tops than sugar cubes. Revisiting these years is the sound of some of our undergraduate degrees.

—Corey duBrowa