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August 07, 1985 - Image 8

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1985-08-07

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Page 8 Wednesday, August 7, 1985


The Michigan Daily

Fishbone - Fishbone
First off, I hate EPs. They look like
LPs. They feel like LPs. You can put
them on your turntable without
changing the speed. But then you
discover that the record that you
thought was a great deal for $5.49 is
half as long as you thought it was.
I hate major label EPs even more.
The only excuse for an EP is limited
funds. If that's all the band can afford,
fine; but major labels can afford LPs.
Even debut LPs. My feeling is that ifsa
band is good enough to warrant a
major label contract, they must have
45 minutes of decent material ready to
go. They deserve 45 minutes worth of
vinyl to make a case for themselves.
Debut EPs smack of corporate
I also hate oohing and aahing in
But OOOOOOH! Fishbone's self-
titled debut EP on Columbia is
terrific. AAAAAH! It's probably the
best debut record of the year, regar-
dless of what happens this fall or win-
Fishbone is an amalgamation of Los
Angeles black teenagers who grew up
listening to new wave. On this EP
Fishbone establishes a new sound, a
completely new attitude. The music is
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everything - rock, punk, ska, reggae,
new wave, heavy metal, funk, opera,
and god knows what else merrily
bashing into one another in a dense
genre stew. There's politics, there's
humor, there's a breakneck dance
beat. Wow.
The EP opens with "Ugly," a
discussion of the appearance and
politics of our neck-wottled chief
executive. The song starts with a
foghorn trombone and zombie-stomp
voices chanting "Ugly," but this gives
way to a hopped-up dance-craze beat.
This song was made for genial slam-
dancing. The instruments mash and
bash around one another. Drummer
Fish keeps the song charging along.
Angelo Moore provides manic
saxophone phrases, and Trombonist
Christopher Dowd blurps intermitten-
tly. The chorus isn't subtle: "U-G-L-
Y/you ain't got no alibi/you're
just ugly, but it sure is entertaining.
The next song, "Another
Generation," begins with ska-ish
trumpet phrases. A meandering,
rockabilly-ish bass joins in, and it's
off we go again. "Generation" is
darker than "Ugly" and the other
songs on the EP. It has a gutty
message about today's teens: The
Fools all hide behind the Fishbone bops in their 'Modern Ir
fashion/The new age rebels have Museum of Modern Art. No joke.
no cause/But little do they realize colloquially as "Modern Industry," is
that a true change comes from the EP's hit, as well it should be. The
within/But that's too simple to be band scrapped the song's original
true/My hair looks better now, it's lyrics in the studio, and replaced them
blue. with the shouted out call letters of vir-
If this looks preachy in print it's too tually every major radio station in
bad, because it comes off as gently America. While this has made the
critical on vinyl, perhaps even a bit stations whose titles are in the song
self-critical. Fishbone has genuine very happy, it shouldn't. The song is
depth, and the social and political an indictment of the way radio is
commentary in their songs seems real being abused. The stations included
and proper, heartfelt even. These are the victims of entrenched for-
guys are all teenagers, but they're mulaic playlists, the "voices of
smarter than a lot of the people run- modern industry." Many of them
ning the big show. don't play "black music" at all.
The last song on side one, listed as "Modern Industry" is also a hell of
"?" on the cover, but known a lot of fun. The vocalists ape radio

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nuustry video wnicn will be featured i
announcers, sounding very "rock and
roll" for some stations, and shouting
out "Hallelujah!" for gospel stations.
At one point one of them parodies
Devo vocalist Mark Mothersbaugh's
style. There's an immense amount of
goofing around. Great fun.
The band's classical influence rears
its head in the opening riff of Side
Two's "Party at Ground Zero," as
guitarist Kendall Jones steals a lick
from Bizet's "Dance of the
Toreadors." From there on, "Party"
sounds like Fishbone's signature
song, with lyrical references to the
band and a characteristic political
message. As the band bops, they send
Johnny and Ivan off to the next war.
The final a capella chorus is pun-
ctuated by "wak-a-doos" and the
growled warning, "This is not a
charade." The song is the essence of
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n a fall exhibition at New York's
Fishbone, at least for now.
"Party" is followed by "Voyage to
the Land of the Freeze-Dried Godzilla
Farts," a headbanger's delight with
chanted vocals telling the story of
everybody's favorite gigantic green .
The EP closer, the quasi-operatic
"Lyin' Ass Bitch," features aspiring
opera singer and Trumpet player Dir-
ty Walt's girlfriend Lisa Grant on lead
vocals. The song sounds like a reject
from Brecht-Weill's Threepenny
Opera. The group's put-on la-la-ing is
just barely serious enough to work.
"Bitch" is the story of a girl who
weaseled Lisa's man away from her. I ,
really thought our love was much
too strong/But that little slut just
proved us wrong, she sings, mixing
mock sadness with mock venom. The
song is brilliant, theatrical, and
hilariously rude.
Fishbone operates from a ska base,
but what makes them so different is
their ability to join virtually any other
type of music to that framework.
Beyond that, they possess an amazing
ability to mix politics and humor into
their music on more than a surface
level - they have lyrical depth. The
EP also manages to capture an
almost-live feel, which is important,
because as good as the record is, it's
clear that Fishbone would be best en-
countered on stage. The songs were
meant to be performed live.
While Fishbone deserved a full
album on which to demonstrate their
abilities, this EP provides ample
evidence of astounding versatility and
talent. Another helping, please. And
this time, Columbia, make it a full
-John Logie

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