This Is Sumo

This week I’ve been listening to the album This Is Sumo, which dates from the halcyon days of 1998 but is completely new to me. I only learned about it while reading up on the career of Patrick Guy Sibley Huntrods — a.k.a. Pat Fish, a.k.a. The Jazz Butcher — following his recent departure from this mortal coil. In the late 90s he had decided to abandon the Jazz Butcher name and formed a new band with a bunch of younger musicians, which they named Sumosonic as (I assume) a pisstake on Semisonic (then at the top of the pops with “Closing Time”), no doubt to much intra-band hilarity.

Maybe I’m a sentimental fool, but I think this is great stuff. The sound is very much of its time, but the songwriting is top-drawer and, though Pat let others handle some of the vocals, his stamp is all over the thing.

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The song that most caught my ear was one called “God’s Green Earth,” in which Mr. Fish was already contemplating his mortality:

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What Balls

Last Friday night I was sitting outside at the Oakland Athletic Club watching My Golden State Warriors thump a hapless-looking Chicago Bulls when Andre Iguodala bent the fabric of spacetime and threw a basketball through it.

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In one sense this was just another play in another regular-season game in another long, long NBA season. In another sense it is the most stunning example you will ever see of split-second decision-making combined with physical dexterity and sheer chutzpah. As Willard said of Kurtz, “He just thought it up and did it. What balls.”

A Terrible Night for a Moondance

Today Godfather of the Blog Xian shared a great review of Van Morrison’s Latest Record Project Volume 1, which makes some of the same points I did but much more coherently and with much more context. By resharing it I feel like I am in some way closing that circle and fulfilling my duties, and I can go on to enjoy the rest of my Sunday. Which is scheduled to include, inshallah, Stephen Malkmus and the Traditional Techniques band at the Alberta Abbey in Portland. It could be a good day.

The Buddha of Brixton and Bromley

“One side of me is experimental and the other side of me wants to make something that people can get into and I don’t know fucking why! Why am I like this?”
—David Bowie

This week I’m on to The Buddha of Suburbia, which I never paid much attention to before. I wasn’t even aware it existed for at least a decade after it came out — it wasn’t released in the U.S. at the time, and this pre-Outside era marked a low point in my interest in what David was doing.

Chris O’Leary is a big advocate for B of S, and I guess I can see why — if you’d heard it in 1993 you might have given it the “Best Album Since Scary Monsters” label (especially if you weren’t as big a fan of Tin Machine II as me). But it seems more like a footnote to the great man’s catalog than the Great Lost Bowie Record.

I’m trying though. Unfamiliar Bowie albums are a dwindling resource. I even went so far as to watch the 1960 Kirk Douglas/Kim Novak movie from which Dave may have lifted the title for “Strangers When We Meet”:

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Two Deaths and a Rebirth

Today of course is the day we commemorate the death of David Bowie, now six years in the past. Although, if immortality is measured by continued presence in the culture, who is more immortal than he?

As it happens, a new song by the Jazz Butcher popped up in my Spotify feed today. This feels very apropos because it’s starting to seem that before kicking the bucket Mr. Fish made his own Blackstar — an album that he knew would be his last, although as far as I know he didn’t have cancer or anything; he just sensed that his time was nigh.

“Running on Fumes” is a particularly extreme example of the song that combines jaunty music with the bleakest of lyrics. From where I’m sitting it sounds like a poison kiss from beyond the grave:

I’m gonna throw a party and I’m gonna take requests
Send out invitations to the people I detest
They’ve been dying for some entertainment, you know the rest
Because we’re running on fumes, running on fumes, everybody’s running on fumes
Lemmy and Bowie and Prince all gone, everybody’s running on fumes

Make your own entertainment
That’s what you’re gonna have to do
Make your own entertainment
While you slowly come to understand
Your stupid dreams aren’t coming true

I mean, ouch. Though I guess the fact that it exists at all must be testament to the fact that on some level he felt like it was worth making.

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On a much, much happier note, through a fortuitous combination of circumstances my beloved and I were fortunate enough to be present for Klay Thompson’s return to the hardwood last night. I took a bunch of video, because of course I did, and I won’t get carried away with it but here’s my favorite: Klay warming up with Steph Curry, also wearing a #11 jersey.

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There was magic in the air. A little of it still lingers in my lungs — and hopefully that’s all. Over and out for now.