Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Fishbone

  • Fishbone [Columbia EP, 1985] B+
  • In Your Face [Columbia, 1986] B-
  • It's a Wonderful Life (We Gonna Have a Good Time) [Columbia EP, 1987] B+
  • Truth and Soul [Epic, 1988] B
  • Bonin' in the Boneyard [Epic, 1990] Choice Cuts
  • The Reality of My Surroundings [Columbia, 1991] Dud
  • Give a Monkey a Brain . . . and He'll Swear He's the Center of the Universe [Columbia, 1993] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Fishbone [Columbia EP, 1985]
Looking like postmodern vaudevillians who've just signed themselves in at the mental hospital, with sartorial details appropriated from the Specials, Dizzy Gillespie, Jimi Hendrix, Stepin Fetchit, and whoever, these six black L.A. teenagers show a flair for visual outrage worthy of George Clinton himself, though funk is far down on an equally eclectic list of musical influences that subsumes metal, new wave, and cool-jazz finger-pop into a ska Prince Buster never dreamed of. It's all too scattered, without much songwriting focus beyond the Devo-meets-Clinton "? (Modern Industry)," but in a world of of Prince clones and ugly presidents these guys are cause for hope. B+

In Your Face [Columbia, 1986]
Last time they looked like sons of P-Funk and sounded like sons of Frank Yankovic's dotage, which suggested their stock in trade was cognitive dissonance. This time they look like 2-Tone fashion plates and sound like big-time new wave satirists, which suggests their stock in trade is haircuts. Uniting the two phases is their sense of rhythm or lack of same. B-

It's a Wonderful Life (We Gonna Have a Good Time) [Columbia EP, 1987]
Songwriting on this Xmas novelty was so noticeable I thought maybe they'd reconstructed some obscurity from the flick of the same name, but the pissed-off title track's an original, as are Saint Nick as debbil-cum-wino, Christ as comsymp, and Uncle Scrooge as Uncle Jam. All are well-served by the band's feckless eclecticism, too. Call it a gift from God and hope it presages a brighter future. B+

Truth and Soul [Epic, 1988]
They're better at truth than soul, always a harder sell, and harder to push beyond interesting, too. Taken one at a time, about half these experiments would change any radio station's pace quite satisfactorily. Taken in sequence, they don't follow. B

Bonin' in the Boneyard [Epic, 1990]
"New and Improved Bonin'" Choice Cuts

The Reality of My Surroundings [Columbia, 1991] Dud

Give a Monkey a Brain . . . and He'll Swear He's the Center of the Universe [Columbia, 1993] Dud