Sumosonic: Come, Friendly Spacemen
By the time of Illuminate, it was no secret that Pat Fish wanted to leave behind the ‘Jazz Butcher’ name: invented for a one-off joke gig, it had always seemed misleading, and even for listeners who had got used to the idea of there being no ‘jazz’ content in the music, it had become associated with guitar-based indie music. The Black Eg side-project, which had put out an album in 1991, gave a hint as to where Pat wanted to go, though it was released to so little fanfare that it was years before I heard about it, and even longer before I heard it. Keyboards; drum machines; samples. 21 December 1995 saw a gig billed as The Last Jazz Butcher Gig Ever, though soon afterwards, to some embarrassment, the band found that their agent had booked them for a summer festival in 1996.
What came after the Jazz Butcher was for a while to have been called Audio Aquatic, but eventually saw the light of day as Sumosonic. Their debut single was ‘Come, Friendly Spacemen’, released by Creation (CRESCD 242 on 5 December 1996. Here’s a demo version:
Shortly before this came out, NASA had been asking — no doubt pleading for their continuing relevance — how earthlings could communicate their benign intentions to approaching alien lifeforms, and I think the lyric glances at this, as well as being a wry observation on the loved-up atmosphere of the ecstasy era, and a gentle complaint about the greedy, degraded state of the world. It’s insanely catchy, the lyrics are sharp, and there’s some beautiful detail, especially the melodic guitar line towards the end, over the lyrics ‘And if the world’s all broken down / Watch the skies above your town.’
It was a surprisingly long time — just over a year — before the debut album came out in January 1998. It too has some unmissable Pat Fish gems: ‘Cat’s Life’, ‘God’s Green Earth’, ‘Sputnik’ (a successor, in a way, to ‘Land’ on Illuminate), and ‘Fern, Schnell, Gut.’ But Creation didn’t get behind it — as the late release suggests — and they dropped Sumosonic a few months later. They continued gigging through 1998, but if the lists at sumosonic.com are to be trusted, they called it a day in September 1998.