Fishbone go back. No, really. The Los Angeles California funk/ska-tastic septet has been around for quite a while. Just ask any of your modern rock-radio listening parents who influenced the popular acts they seemingly enjoy today (i.e., Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction). Really. They go pretty far back.
So in the chameleon-like world of music, age can always mean more than one thing. The concept of age in music usually brings things like maturity and an evolution of one’s sound. When an artist or a collection of artists grow together, especially over a span of nearly 30 years (as long as Fishbone have), the sounds that are produced can completely alienate themselves from the sounds produced when the artist or collection of artists first began their quest for musical domination.
Well I guess someone forgot to tell Dr. Maddvibe that. Because on Still Stuck in Your Throat, Fishbone’s ninth full-length effort, the doc, or lead singer Angelo Moore, proves that neither he nor his band of quirky, funky friends really care all that much for change, let alone maturity and evolution.
Songs like “Skank ‘N Go Nuttz” and “Premadawnutt” could effortlessly be mistaken for tracks that appeared on In Your Face, the band’s first album. While the former keeps stride with the band’s signature upstroke, almost ska-like guitar, the latter is a pseudo-protest/fight song that suggests age is nothing but a number to these So-Cal cats.
It isn’t until Fishbone decide to take a chance and stray from their so-so original formula that Stuck becomes interesting — for both better and worse. And though when it’s worse, it’s real worse, when it’s better, it surprisingly proves to be real better.
But where it becomes real worse is the ultimate problem, as those times completely outweigh the number of worthwhile glances at brilliance. “Jack Ass Brigade”, the album’s first track, reaches far beyond “the line” and rests at a spot that is simply silly and outright generic.
Then, keeping with the theme, the album gets even worse. “Let Dem Ho’s Fight” sounds like it was produced in pot-head Billy’s basement with a $200 four-track and a going rate of three songs for a case of the cheapest beer you can find and a couple of burgers from McDonald’s. It’s just bad. While it is clear that Fishbone are reaching for something Sublime’s incongruous style perfected with these first two tracks, they fall so far short that anyone would be hard pressed to find a worse way to open an album, ever.
Stuck finally gets going — four songs too late — with “Party With Saddam”. Here, the aging funksters return to the elements that they are ultimately best at: clean, upstroke guitar with a bouncy feel that resonates just as well today as it did 20 years ago. This modern-day pop-reggae track’s only downfall is its unnecessary political backdrop.
And then Fishbone tread into the waters that granted them the rare amount of longevity they have achieved. “We Just Lose Our Minds”, a 9:44 groove-filled marathon, suggests that, if they wanted, Fishbone could be an awfully good jam band. The song’s ambiance creates a mood that could fill any hookah bar in the land.
But it doesn’t get any better than “Forever Moore”. Sure, the “I really miss my daughter” theme has been played out by gazillions and gazillions of other artists. And sure, while it’s the best Stuck has to offer, it is surely something Hepcat could produce on a bad day. But as far as Jamaican-influenced So-Cal pop goes, this track certainly holds its own. Which is good considering that it is surrounded by mostly nonsensical garage-style experiments.
So thus everything comes full circle – Fishbone don’t really care to grow. Though in some instances artists can thrive off of a familiar formula in a fruitful and interesting manner, Fishbone’s formula appears to be growing stale. So while on Still Stuck in Your Throat, Maddvibe has given us a track or two that could fit on a brilliant “best-of” compilation, he hasn’t given us an entire album that finally rids itself of the stupidity and glorifies itself on the things that make Fishbone a band to pay attention to.
Then again, maybe that can only come with maturity.