Worldservice Project – Fire in a Pet Shop (2013)

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Mixing punk rock, swinging jazz, whack jazz and funk isn’t some new concept but it’s rare enough that it makes your ears perk up when you hear it, and for some (like uh, me) get a charge out of it. If jazz is the sound of surprise, punk jazz is the sound of gumption.

And gumption is what Britain’s Worldservice Project’s got plenty of. The guys up front consist of a sax player and trombone player (Tim Ower and Raphael Clarkson), backed by a keyboardist (Dave Morecroft), a bassist (Conor Chaplin) and drummer (Neil Blandford).

“De-Frienders” gets this thing going off on the good foot: thunderous, heavy metal grinds, interspersed with funky stomps and jazzy interludes and avant-garde horn blasts. And, what the hell was that fleeting passage? It’s some lost theme song for an Atari arcade game. Gumption.

And they’re just getting started. There’s barely a breath taken before launching right into “Fire In A Pet Shop,” which lurches from a strident shuffle into near-chaos. From the ashes, comes a raucous backbeat, and through it all, Ower and Clarkson blast their way through it with a melodic progression that only occasionally goes back to retread ground already covered. They just move from one crazy motif to another.

“Barmy Army” is where the boys bring their punk ethos to New Orleans second line/Dixieland. They are at times amiable, celebratory and militant, and the breakdown sections briefly brings the music all the way back to 1920. “Change The F**king Record” is what someone might yell when the sound reaches a point where a short horn phrase is obnoxiously repeated over and over, like a needle stuck on the vinyl. Just as it reaches the point of where you are ready to skip over the rest of the song they merrily separate it and disassemble it.

The mood on “Dance Of The Clown” veers wildly between maniacal and joyful, usually going balls out on both ends at once; it’s the lunatic answer to Charles Mingus’ “The Clown.” “Small Town Girl” takes the lumbering, threatening groove of the Eagles’ “Those Shoes” and devise freak jazz motifs on top of it, eventually making its way to a climatic, concluding thematic figure.

These songs are all the brainchild of Morecroft, whose fuzzy, distorted keys — mashed with Chaplin’s ferocious bass — had me going for a while thinking that there was a hard rock guitarist in the band. The collective crunch of that rhythm section underpinning lively brass is great, but applying their acumen toward a zany sense of humor goes a long way toward making the music a lot of fun, too. Mingus understood that. So did Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Frank Zappa. As does Mostly Other People Do The Killing today. Like those guys, Worldservice Project plays seriously complex music but they hadn’t forgotten about the main mission in music is to entertain their audience, to make them smile.

Fire in a Pet Shop makes me smile.

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Fire in a Pet Shop went on sale June 24, by Megasound Records. Visit Worldservice Project’s website for more info.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on,, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at
S. Victor Aaron
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