Thursday, April 26, 2007

First Blush: Fishbone - Still Stuck in Your Throat

The most astute and learned of readers are aware that this entire website takes its name from a Fishbone song. The same goes for regular feature Unyielding Commissioning. For those that do not know, Fishbone is my absolute favorite band. Put simply, no musical artist has provided me with more joy in my lifetime. I’ve seen them live too many times to count and am a fan of everything they’ve ever released. To quote frequent commenter, Biz, if someone asks me which Fishbone album is my favorite, the answer is, “Whichever one I’m listening to.”

Fishbone’s sound has always changed from album to album, yet it has always remained theirs. They are an unclassifiable artist – to describe their music as anything but “Nuttmeg” would be folly. Such variety is generally welcomed and expected by the average Fishbone fan. However, it has been seven years since their last studio release, and nearly the entire lineup has been altered. The only two members remaining from the original crew are bassist Norwood Fisher and frontman, sax player, and all-around entertainer Angelo Moore. I was able to catch the new lineup about three years ago at Subterranean. Unfortunately, Norwood was too drunk to play, and the show, while hilarious, was a disaster. After such a hiatus, the success or failure of this album will surely determine what the future holds for Fishbone. I’m obviously sitting here with fingers and toes crossed. Needless to say, I feel this will be the most urgent First Blush to date, and I couldn’t be more excited. So let’s hear it!

Track 1 – Jack Ass Brigade
0:01 – I’ve noticed that the first couple seconds of any Fishbone album is nearly always brilliant. This time it is Angelo imitating a donkey. Guess that streak’s over.
1:03 – The backing music is damn sparse with Angelo singing so quickly I don’t think he can understand himself. If the words were nonsense, I’d say it was “Das EFX-ey”
1:45 – First entry of the sax. This is a nice little tune, upbeat and a bit silly. But it sure ain’t catchy. Outside of the sax, everything sounds a bit muddled.
2:58 – “J-A-B à Jackass Brigade. Yeeaaaaah.” Safe to assume this is about the Bush administration? I really couldn’t understand most of the words. Could be about any old idiots I suppose.

Track 2 – Let Dem Ho’s Fight
0:08 – OK, so this is Fishbone’s first dub song. This one isn’t brand new – I think I’ve seen it live and it was on some previous live releases.
0:36 – Guitars are crunching and John Steward is pounding on his snare.
1:16 – Now that apostrophe seems incorrect to me. Does the fight belong to Dem Ho? Or are they saying Let Dem Ho is Fight? That really doesn’t make any sense. OK, sorry. This ends the grammatical lesson for today.
2:14 – Compact, powerful track. Very aggressive – there was nothing like this on Pyschotic Friends Nuttwerx

Track 3 – Skank ‘N Go Nuttz
0:03 – Another not-so-new one. This one has some punch if I recall correctly.
0:20 – That’s right, it’s speedy as hell.
0:45 – They’re feelin’ their ska roots here. See, I could have said “feeling” there. The apostrophes are rubbing off on me.
1:42 – “I’ve got a nut, it’s bound to bust. Spirit spray or sparked by lust. Keep it slippery never rust. By nose we flows in stank we trust. Skank and go nuts!” I suppose that’s exuberant, no? It fits the song. Believe me.
2:43 – Really busy horns here. Ahhhhhh. This is Fishbone, baby.
3:03 – Got lots of different lyrics going on, even someone screaming random stuff in the background.
3:29 – Right now I’m impressed with the new lineup. Note that I really can’t attribute anything to specific people since they didn’t even list the names of the musicians in the album. Whassup with that? Maybe they’re still in “audition” mode.

Track 4 – Party With Saddam
0:38 – It’s not ground zero – this is very much like one of their lighter fun songs. Very Everyday Sunshine-esque.
1:01 – “Party ‘till Saddam’s your friend. Never drop a bomb again.” It’s a plea for peace through partying, folks. It’s quite possible that this is the song Fishbone was put on the earth to write.
2:44 – If you like Sly and the Family Stone, this is the track for you. It could’ve appeared on Stand! Well, if Saddam had been invented by then.
3:52 – Now they’re just listing random dictators and saying we should party with them. That’s quite a progressive…

Track 5 – We just Lose Our Minds
0:26 – Horns are featured to start and played similarly to those in P-Funk’s “Children of Production”
2:03 – This is the first moment where Norwood’s bass has gotten low and thick. ‘Bout time.
4:43 – The whole song is slow and groovy, with Angelo doing a Tom Waits Nighthawks at the Diner kind of thing where he riffs and wails his vocals.
6:16 – There’s a Weapon of Choice (Fishbone’s “little brother band”) song that is very similar to this one.
6:49 – Ooh, but it doesn’t have strings – we just got some. Eh – maybe that was a synthesizer.

Track 6 – Frey’d Fuckin’ Nerve Endingz
0:07 – All the hallmarks of a crazy Fishbone song. People will tackle the crap out of each other when this gets played live (I can’t wait!)
1:28 – Angelo has to be about 40 years old by now. I don’t know how the hell he does this. He is singing fast as hell – not rapping - and throwing in all kinds of yelling and screaming at various times, too.
3:39 – Just loud and aggressive and dirty.
4:17 – Just a wail from Angelo in the background – it’s going on for about twenty straight seconds.

Track 7 – The Devil Made Me Do It
0:38 – Steward is doing some kind of crazy, superfast zydeco beat.
1:01 – “It had to be the will of God, but the devil made me do it.” When can’t you use that one?
1:50 – Someone in here sounds like Walter Kibby. But he’s out of the group, so I wonder if they auditioned guys with dirty voices until they found the right fit. And if so, can they still call that person King of the Dog Freaks?
4:45 – Not sure what to think of that track. It sounded fine, but there wasn’t much change along the way.

Track 8 – Forever Moore
0:21 – So far this one is pretty much a stripped-down version of “Where’d you get those pants.”
1:04 – Looking at the lyrics, it’s pretty clear that Angelo wrote this about his sister who must have passed away. It’s not really the kind of subject matter that fits with Fishbone’s music, especially on the last few releases. And if I did interpret the lyrics correctly, then I’m afraid this song isn’t the greatest tribute. Fishbone has made songs with an emotional closeness before (Lemon Meringue, Change, In the Air), but I’m guessing it’s harder for them with a new lineup because it' coming across very bluntly.

Track 9 – Behind Closed Doors
0:22 – Getting a great combination of sound out of the guitar and bass right now.
1:47 – There are brief moments of very heavy guitars, balanced by the horns.
2:56 – This is probably the most uninspired track on the album thus far. The music is fine, and would possibly be good live, but the could have cut it after two minutes because it's flatly rolling along.
3:03 – Somebody is rapping now. I'd call it "dub-hop" - does that even exist? Did I just make up a genre?
3:44 – Things are picking up. Perhaps I was too quick to judge this song.

Track 10 – Premadawnutt
0:02 – Ah yes, I recall this one. It is craaaazy.
1:18 – “You showed your ass and suddenly, I have found my way.” I don’t have a worthwhile response to that. I just like it.
2:06 – The Theremin is going wild.
2:33 – “Hoooh! Hah!”
3:34 – I think this song may be too rapid and fast for people to get live. Maybe now that it’s on an album it’ll get more traction. I remember seeing them play it and just feeling bewildered.

Track 11 – Faceplant Scorpion Backpinch
0:26 – “Faceplant – it hurts!” Lots of skateboard or snowboard references here.
0:38 – Why am I being reminded of Gleaming the Cube right now? I guess it’s a snowboard, but something about the music could have been from 1987 here – I think it’s the surf guitar
2:28 – I really wish there were credits here. I’m awfully curious about who’s singing right now

Track 12 – Date Rape
0:28 – It says this is written by Sublime, so I suppose it’s a cover, but I don’t think I know it
1:26 – Kind of an odd thing to end your comeback album with a cover, no? It’s good, though. Not as good as when they covered The Rolling Stones’ Shattered on the Magic Hour, but still good.
2:06 – Also not as good as the cover of Sly’s Everybody Is a Star on their last album, but still good.
2:52 – The Sublime version is now feeling vaguely familiar to me. Vaguely.

Well, I’m pleased. I mean, anytime Fishbone releases something, I’m pleased, but this album is exactly what they should have produced. The previous one appeared to somewhat cater to what they thought people would want to hear, but Still Stuck in Your Throat is more what I think the band wants to be playing. It’s true to form of their most renowned albums. Will it produce a hit single? I’m not seeing it, but I recommend picking it up. It's 11.99 at Best Buy this week, or you can pick it up here. Of course, if you don’t have any Fishbone albums, maybe start with Truth and Soul or The Reality of My Surroundings. And if you get the chance to see them live – do not miss it.


Anonymous said...

Still remember their show we saw at the House of Blues. Geeze, I guess that must have been 7 or 8 years by now...

Anonymous said...

Holy shit! A new fishbone album!??

That's good news. I must hear it.

I just searched Pitchfork for Fishbone and it returned nothing. I guess that makes them pretty old school.

Is Sound in Color a new label for them?

You've probably heard that sublime song. It's one of their most famous /memorable songs.

I hope they *get together their shit* and play a show in Chicago soon!

Reed said...

They have no shows scheduled in Chicago. I'm a bit peeved since the last one was intoxicated and the one before that, the guy driving them turned the wrong way and ended up in Iowa which resulted in a four-song set. They have apperances scheduled for Otto's in DeKalb and the Pearl Room in Mokena. I would go to either of those, but I'm going to be out of the country. There are no other Illinois shows, and no Milwaukee shows, either. What the F? Maybe Norwood got them blacklisted...