FISHBONE ANNOUNCE EP PRODUCED BY FAT MIKE, CELEBRATE 40TH ANNIVERSARY
There once was a time when music releases by important artists served as a kind of State of the Union. Not merely a political diatribe, but All! Of! It! and politics being part of that civic and social duty, not shying away from calling out names and policies and the wickedness that dwells in the hearts of men who influence history. It seemed like part of a world-conscious band's duty - especially a punk band's duty - was to speak their truth. This state-of-the-world sense prevails all over Fishbone's new five-song EP, Fishbone. And if there's one thing you probably already know about Fishbone - even in the unlikely event that this is the first music you‘re hearing by a group that has been a cornerstone of Los Angeles' punk, funk, ska, jazz and experimental sound since the early 1980s - it's that their truth has always been foremost on their minds.
Fishbone was produced by Fat Mike, singer/founder of NOFX, a man that Norwood Fisher, Fishbone's bassist and co-founder gives major credit to siting a friendship that stretches back to 1991, when NOFX opened for the ‘bone. Notably this is the first new recorded Fishbone music in six years. Its creation was interrupted in 2019, when all of Fishbone's original members - who with the exception of mainstays Fisher and vocalist/saxophonist/frontman Angelo Moore, have been coming and going for 30 years - were threatening to simultaneously return into the fold. What Fisher acknowledges with a knowing smile is "the difficulties of being in a
whacked-out, everybody-is-somewhat-crazy band. The thing that creates the beauty can sometimes be the thing that creates the obstacles." By the time they finished Fishbone in 2022, it was still the closest to an "original" Fishbone line-up its been in eons, with Angelo and Norwood rejoined by keyboardist/vocalist Chris Dowd and trumpeter/vocalist "Dirty Walt" Kibby, and rounded out with veteran ‘bone drummer John Steward, and guitarist Mark Phillips.
Fishbone vibrates about the state of the world, pulling from both headlines and diaries. Take the crisp soulful skank "All We Have Is Now," a wonderful addition to the long list of Fishbone classics, part biography part call-to-Zen, all punky funky presence. On the flipside of the anger scale lies "Estranged Fruit," an update on one of the greatest compositions in this country's songbook, Abel Meeropol and Billie Holiday's 1939 "Strange Fruit." Where the original metaphorically addressed Jim Crow lynchings, the new version describes a United States where "cops can just lynch you," delivered in imitable Angelo Moore style with grinning cakewalk rage. And if the reaffirmation of youthful punk values "I Don't Care," or the Zoot-Suit-attired historic Black Los Angeles chronicle "Wake Up My Child" scale down the gravitas, they too are perfect vignettes of a band whose legacy in American cultural psyche is assured.
The release of Fishbone carries with it a special weight as it marks the 40th anniversary of the band's first paid gig. "May 21st, 1983 at Madame Wong's Chinatown," says Fisher gleefully. "It was the night of Angelo's prom and we got paid $25. So, yeah man we are celebrating." They've earned the right, having brought joy, knowledge and a unique sound everywhere they go. And in Fisher's mind, they're nowhere near done. "I appreciate the privilege to be doing this at this point. And as long as the band continues to have fun and we all feel like we're creating great art, to possibly do it for another 20-30 years. Fishbone comes out May 21st, 2023 on Fat Wreck Chords.