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Fishmans releases ranked

Are you feel good?! Formed in 1987 by Shinji Sato (Vocals, Guitar), Kin-Ichi Motegi (Drums, Vocals, Sampler) and Kensuke Ojima (Guitar, Sampler), Fishmans began as a rather unremarkable but fun dub band, before rapidly morphing into one of the greatest bands of the 90s. With the inclusion of bassist Yuzuru Kashiwabara, the group grew to incorporate dream pop, post rock and ambient into their sound to create a unique and heavenly blend of sound. While they disbanded in 1999 after the death of Shinji, the group’s legacy lives on in the modern age with a huge underground online fandom in the west, years after their heyday. This is a ranking of their albums. Enjoy
Oh! Mountain

The band’s first live album is a weird one. It’s less of a pure demonstration of the stage performances and more of an experimental mix of live recordings and bizarre fragments of studio pieces (Think Sheik Yerbouti by Frank Zappa). The applause and audience noise has been removed from each song, making each song feel more like an alternate mix of the songs present, with several odd interludes smacked in the middle. While it’s wonderful to hear them perform Thank You for the first time, the live cuts themselves aren’t as good as the studio takes, and the interludes vary from pointless to annoying (the final two tracks are a 40 second lo fi Piano performance mixed with billiard noises and a baby crying, actually a Shinji wail pitched up, and a short guitar instrumental with the words ‘Oh cry’ repeated over it). It’s not a terrible album, but it’s the least good Fishmans recording

Best tracks: Doyoubi No Yoru, Blue Summer, Tayorinai Tenshi, Oasis e Youkoso
Chappie, Don't Cry

A band’s first album is vital. If you don’t hook the listener immediately with what you’re trying to accomplish, then you failed. Chappie, Don’t Cry isn’t a bad album, by all accounts. In fact it’s great, but it’s a simple dub album. Nothing more nothing less. While there’s nothing inherently exciting about this record, the band still managed to nail down their style and deliver an album of fun, care free reggae which at times only hints at the greatness to come.

Best tracks:

Hikouki, Natsu no Omoide, Future, Inago ga Tonderu, Go Go Club De Surechigai, Piano

The group’s second live album nowhere near compares to the greatness of 98.12.28, but it’s still a damn fine release. Recorded in the midst of their final major tour promoting Uchuu Nippon Setagaya, It’s enthralling to see the band work their magic and perform such difficult studio reliant tracks on stage, reworking more conventional songs into extended spacey jams to fit their current style. While not their best live document, it’s a great listen for someone looking for a glimpse into how they worked on stage. Includes two live only tracks, only available here!

Best tracks: Shizukana Asa, Sunny Blue, Zuttomae, Sorewa Tadano Kibunsa, Atarashii Hito
Neo Yankees' Holiday

The band’s third album is sort of a mix of their first two. The straightforward dub of Chappie, Don’t Cry and the experimentation of King Master George. While the songs here are firmly dub, Fishman’s knack for experimentation looms over the album, with various strange vocals and effects layering the songs. This was also the album to crack them into the mainstream with the song ‘Ikareta Baby’.

Best tracks:

Running Man, Ikareta Baby, Smilin’ Days Summer Holiday, Tsukarenai Hito, Walkin’, Su Pa
King Master George

The group’s second album is really a wild batch of tunes. A real “throw shit at the wall” operation, the boys branch out into a wild mix of sounds including Jazz rock, Ska punk and spoken word. While the record’s lengthy tracklist and several extremely short joke tracks may be a turn off, the deep cuts here are fantastic. Their knack for groove is still strong and their growing aspirations signal the greatness to come. A flawed but extremely fun album

Best tracks:

Dareka wo Sagasou, Nantetanno, 100mm Chotto No, Tayorinai Tenshi, Reindeer, Doyoubi no Yoru

The boys get funky on this one, further adding to their ever growing list of styles and sounds. Orange isn’t a particularly long record, clocking in at an average 40 minutes, but it’s on this record where they make their transition from dub/sunshine pop to dream pop, as the songs get less chirpy and funky and more mellow and spacey as the record progresses. An important record in their discography and a deliciously groovy album

Best tracks:

Kibun, My Life, Melody, Kansha (Odoroki), Yoru No Omoi
Corduroy's Mood

Often overlooked, even in the group’s fandom, Corduroy’s Mood is at first glance, a rather unassuming little EP, released after their debut album. But the four songs hidden in this package are some of their strongest work. Taking a more Shibuya-Kei influence, the group experiment with Jazz pop, lo-fi and even lounge. It’s an upbeat, extremely catchy and fun release, Heavy on acoustic guitars and keyboards with some of Shinji’s finest vocal work.

Best tracks:

Anoko ga Nemutteru, Murasaki no Sora Kara, Sukuwareru Kimochi
Kuuchuu Camp

Who needs dub when there’s a whole galaxy out there? Kuuchuu Camp (Aerial Camp) is where the boys’ decided the world was worth exploring fully outside their dub origins and started to become the godlike act they’re known as today. While keeping the rocksteady rhythm that was vital to their act, Fishmans blended harmonic soundscapes, jangly Guitar lines and all sorts of effects to create a weird mix of dub and stripped down dream pop. It works beautifully.

Standout tracks:

Zuttomae, Baby Blue, Slow Days, Night-Cruising, Shiawasemono, Subarashikute NICE CHOICE
Uchuu Nippon Setagaya

The band’s final studio album is one of their strongest works, but is barely just inched out by Long Season. Incorporating a space rock/ambient edge to their work let the band explore longer but still conventional songs like the 13 minute ‘Walking In The Rhythm’. While the dub elements are slowly fading out of the band’s music, the heavenly lush sound that they had been crafting on their last two albums has finally been mastered, and what they have here is a truly calming and dreamy piece of art. Sadly, it would turn out to be their final main release before Shinji’s passing. But what a way to go out on.

Best tracks: Weather Report, Magic Love, In The Flight, Walkin’ In The Rhythm, Daydream
Long Season

The band’s finest studio work, a 35 minute long prog pop epic. Developed as an extension to their previously released single Season, Long Season never falters in its lengthy run time, as every part feels connected and fits the song, from the booming bass riffs at the start of the song, to the frantic and atmospheric drumming midway through to the final bookends of the title theme, scored with violins and wordless vocals. It’s less of an album and more of an exploration of a strange foreign world, with bizarre structures and interesting people, all set to one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever recorded. Get Round In The Season!

Best track: Long Season
98.12.28 Otokotachi no Wakare

Originally intended as a farewell show for Yuzuru, this show took on much more emotional weight as it ended up being the final show Shinji would perform before his death a few months later. What was already an emotional performance becomes even more heart wrenching and beautiful. Everything falls into place perfectly. Every note, every high, every thing works, from the introductory jam ‘Oh! Slime’ all the way to explosive violin finale of ‘Long Season’, it’s a majestic album. Nearly all the tracks played here are better than their studio counterparts, by a country mile, which means already fantastic songs achieve perfectness. Not only recognised as one of the best live albums of all time but one of the best albums period, 98.12.28 is a soaring climatic goodbye to a band at the height of their prime.

Standout tracks:

Oh! Slime, Night-Cruising, Thank You, Tayorini Tenshi, Yurameki In The Air, Long Season
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