By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Fishbone & the Familyhood Nextperience Presents the Psychotic Friends Nuttwerx, featuring an arsenal of guest stars including George Clinton, Rick James, Gwen Stefani, John Frusciante, Ivan Nevill, Jeff ”Skunk“ Baxter, Perry Farrell, Blowfly and Lili Haydn, is a funk-o-ramic magnum opus, streamlined, focused and single-minded. Gone are the forays into grunge, metal and progressive rock. Gone are the 12-minute odes to poop (as in Chim Chim’s‘ ”In the Cube“). Gone is the attempt to satisfy everyone, all the time, within the scope of one album. This is Fishbone at their funkiest.
Angelo has finally morphed into the singer everyone hoped he would become, a true heir to the gospel-R&B vocal style that is almost extinct in today’s music scene. And talk about the blues: A recurring theme in Nuttwerx is Angelo‘s love for, marriage to and subsequent divorce from his high school girlfriend, his muse and his tormentor. ”The Suffering,“ which Angelo describes as ”country reggae,“ is not only the best ballad Fishbone have ever written, but, possibly, the best shot Fishbone have ever had at a hit single. The song has hooks galore, a stick-to-your-brain-like-glue chorus, and lyrics that speak volumes:
The engagement ring,
The wedding ring,
The church bells ring,
Then the suffering . . .
Infectious, jarring, personal and tender, ”The Suffering“ is Angelo’s cry for redemption, and Fishbone‘s attempt at crossover glory. ”Angelo had a pretty personal year,“ says Walt, ”so he wanted to express on that. He was on a one-track mind, and he had to get it out or he’d explode.“
So. With a terrific breakthrough album ready to strike, several side projects on the way (the long-awaited Trulio Disgracias album, plus Dirty Walt & the Columbus Sanitations), a big record company prepared to get behind them for the long haul, tour dates, videos in the offing, etc., what can go wrong? Or, to put it another way, what‘s different this time around?
”From the end of Reality until now, we were a band in deep inner turmoil, and that reflected in the sound,“ says Norwood. ”There was a lot of honesty in the music, whether people liked it or not. We kept it real -- or maybe surreal. Our lives were very surreal, for a long time. Now it’s a much more cohesive band. We‘re all happy to be where we are.“
Not that there won’t be a potential pothole or two down the road. As always, Fishbone are ahead of their time. They are heroes, and underdogs. They go up, they go down. The new album kicks ass, but so did Truth and Soul, and we all know how that one sold.
And there have already been a few scraps with Hollywood Records, mostly over words. (This is Disney, you‘ll recall.) ”Where’d You Get Those Pants“ was originally titled ”Weed Plant“ until Hollywood execs made their uneasiness clear. The song ”Let Them Hoes Fight“ was dropped from the album altogether, and an entire song with Primus was axed because it was . . . just too weird. Rumor has it that George Clinton was almost entirely edited out of their Sly Stone cover ”Everybody Is a Star“ because some A&R guy felt he couldn‘t sing well enough to make the cut.
The band sees this as censorship, no doubt, and maybe it is. On the other hand, maybe Fishbone needs to be held back a bit. Considering how their more self-indulgent albums have fared on the charts, maybe they need someone to tell them what to do and, more important, what not to do. Obviously, Hollywood Records will want the band to release the best album they’re capable of.
”The door is open wide for black rock & roll bands,“ says Walt. ”But Fishbone, we‘re just trying to keep that originality thing alive. There’s room for a gang of bands. It‘s just the willingness to be there. Somebody has to stay up in there and set an example.“
”There are a lot of good bands coming up now who are giving us pounds in their interviews and saying how we influenced them,“ says Norwood. ”All of this contributes to a climate where it’s more possible than ever for Fishbone to see major commercial acceptance. We finally stopped fighting ourselves long enough to enjoy what might be available to us. It seems like everything is in the right place. Anyway, no matter what level of success this record sees, it is a success, because it got made. We went through a lot of stuff, man, and this is an honest representation of how, as a whole, we feel, which is . . . Damn!“
Fishbone play Friday, April 14, at Universal Amphitheater.