“They should have been the band that went way beyond any of us who were influenced by them,” says Primus' Les Claypool about groundbreaking African-American band Fishbone in the documentary Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone.
The film, co-directed by Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler, is a love letter to the group. Packed with fantastic performance footage, the film solidly makes the case that, throughout the 1980s and early '90s, Fishbone were one of rock's best live acts ever — furiously energetic, innovative, leaping multiple genres in a single song.
A slew of talking heads, from Vernon Reid to Gwen Stefani (who should pay Fishbone frontman Angelo Moore royalties), sings the group's praises, as Laurence Fishburne narrates a whiplash-inducing career ride: High school friends form a punk/ska/funk/fill-in-the-blanks band, create groundbreaking music, travel the world, influence countless other bands, but crash and burn before achieving the success they deserve. The reasons for liftoff failure are familiar: record-label ineptitude, the love/hate dynamics within the group that eventually gave way to alcoholism, mental breakdowns and bitterness.
Anderson and Metzler get it all down but are so enamored of the band that they don't shape their material as tightly as they could have, and it occasionally drifts into redundancy.
An unexpected upside to the film is its timeliness. As conversations about “post-blackness” drift from the art world and academia onto the op-ed pages — see: Touré's controversial new book Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness? — it's refreshing to hear group members repeatedly stress that their art was rooted in black culture and consciousness, as the film itself becomes a dialectic on black masculinity. —Ernest Hardy (Sunset 5)