The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy: Scarlett
I thought it would be easy to find a self-reflexive song in the Jazz Butcher corpus, but it hasn’t been. In the early songs there’s a lot of self-referencing (most explicitly in ‘The Jazz Butcher Meets Count Dracula’ and ‘JB vs. PM’), and calling out names of the band members (‘me and Max and Dave and Jones …’); in ‘Conspiracy’ there’s a self-mocking account of their willingness to engage with the Big Questions, like the Egg-Potato Phenomenon; but whereas in most twentieth-century poets’ volumes you’d find the poem about poetry, I can’t think of a song about songwriting. ‘Scarlett’, from the Illuminate album, qualifies by virtue of a brilliant moment when the camera pulls back, so to speak, and we see the band in the act of recording the song. What had been, in the first chorus, ‘We put all our faith in constructs’, and ‘We put all our faith in strangers’ in the second becomes, in the third, ‘We put all our faith in magnetic tape.’
But never mind if it doesn’t really fit the criteria: there’s a lot else to like here. (And there’s not a version of it on YouTube at the moment, so you’ll have to take my word for it.) At the start there’s a lovely contrast between the coarse sound and boxy echo of the rhythm guitar and the liquid drops of melody from the other guitar; the rhythm section aren’t obtrusive in this song, but they give it a subtle groove. And Pat’s vocal performance is a good one: I like the hint of a stoned Bob Dylan in the phrase ‘And a silver haze descends’ and even (is it?) the hint of Elvis in ‘Don’t you wanna come down’? There’s a rich, warm, reassuring sound to the song, as befits a song about reassuring someone who’s lost their self-confidence; but the reassurance never becomes cloying or saccharine, as befits a song that reminds us that we put our faith in insubstantial and impermanent things.
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