Sophisticated Boom Boom – Sophisticated Boom Boom
14 track reissue of the Swiss post punk outfit Sophisticated Boom Boom’s self-titled LP from 1982. They had strong roots to early punk act The Sozz and members of the band later founded Chin Chin. Ian Canty finds things complicated, but explosive…
The Sozz were one of Switzerland’s first punk outfits and they put out the singles Patrol Car and Law ‘N’ Order on the local independent record label Farmer in 1979 and 1980 respectively. The three Maeschi brothers Andreas, Stefan (or Buzz as he was also known) and Ernest were joined by drummer Pasquale Isernia in Sozz’s line up. When singer Andreas left in 1980, the remaining trio recruited vocalist Monique Sieber and changed the band’s name to Last Romance. This short-lived aggregation yielded the War In The City/Babylon Barmy Army 45 for Off Course Records in 1981.
1982 brought further changes, with Marianne Sunier and Esther coming in to swell the vocal contingent to three. On saxophone one Rudi “Hotcha” Tüscher joined up and keyboards from Chiclet were also pressed into service on record. They rebranded themselves at this point with the moniker Sophisticated Boom Boom. Not to be confused with the Scottish outfit of the same name that recorded three sessions for the John Peel Show, this SBB were much more accessible proposition than their punky forbearers. As well as having a bundle of energy, they drew on the 1960s sound of pure pop and the vocal groups that their Shangri-Las derived name tacitly indicated.
So far as I can ascertain this self-titled LP, originally released on Off Course Records back in 1982, was their sole waxing, bar a couple of compilation appearances. The record is very much a real antidote to the gloomier, guilt-ridden side of post punk. To start with, the upbeat 60s garage sound Yeah Yeah Yeah has a witty spoken voiceover acting as a fun introduction to the world of Sophisticated Boom Boom, with each instrumentalist getting a chance to display their exuberance. Boom Boom Rap comes next. Here SBB have a go at funk/hip hop, with it all sitting atop a very cool bouncing bassline. This agreeable opening gambit is immediately followed by the delightful, finger-clicking pop of Jimmy Jimmy (not The Undertones’ song).
Frustration finds Sophisticated Boom Boom sounding a little like Madness crossed with The Gymslips, but the tune and execution are far better than that rather clumsy comparison might lead one to believe. One thing that quickly is established on this record is SBB make such great pop music you will be wondering why you never heard of them beforehand. I certainly did. Trocadero follows and is a really charming punk pop pearl, embellished with basic but really appealing keyboards courtesy of the mysterious Chiclet.
Then comes the first of two Beat Girls takes, starting with buzzsaw guitar and a barrelling momentum. It’s probably the closest the band come to their punk rock roots on the LP and this number is bracingly energy-filled and raucous. I suppose a reference point here would be a more pop X Ray Spex. Just to throw the unwary, then a very percussive Numa has Sophisticated Boom Boom come on like a danceable and enticing Pigbag/Bow Wow Wow cross.
Boom Boom A Go Go skips along in a none more breezy manner and then Dance With Me finds the band tinkering with dub moves in a dabble with blue beat. Some fine guitar moves are highlighted on this one in particular. It still comes with the SBB stamp firmly on it though – that is the key to this album, Sophisticated Boom Boom dart willy-nilly into a load of different areas, but everything comes through them with their identity intact. We arrive at a funky Number One In Radio next, which is similar in form to Boom Boom Rap, kind of a low-budget Wordy Rappinghood in a way, but none the worse for it.
Sharing similar sort of pop reggae ground to Brighton’s Piranhas musically, Train To Boyscamp is where their backing and lead vocals come into their own in a way that had me smiling all the way through. Another full-throttle Beat Girls comes next, number 2 in the series and a somewhat grittier sound than most of the album, but still vital. Nearing the final strait of the LP we have the fresh Ready To Dance, which brings one back to the sunnier, alluringly naïve side of the band. Sophisticated Boom Boom the album ends with Out And On My Own, a reflective and melancholic item that appears to pre-empt a lot of C86 bands. I found this record very enjoyable and spell-binding – it is simply is a quality album full of top notch tunes, hot energy, touching lyrics and spicy musicianship.
After the album’s release the band seem to have went their separate ways. Esther and Marianne formed the highly rated Chin Chin, who released a popular compilation Stop! You’re Crying in 1987 on the 53rd And 3rd label. Their work could do with a reissue too. Going back to SBB, they may have only lasted a short time and very much slipped under the radar, but boy were they good! I think anyone who was keen on The Shop Assistants, The Slits, The Mo-Dettes, The Marine Girls or The TVPs will find something to love here. Sophisticated Boom Boom had great tunes that should have been heard more widely. Truly something special.
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here