Review Summary: Fishbone broke new ground with this genre-defying record
Call them what you want: A ska band, a rock band, a metal band, a punk band, a funk band, whatever category they fall under, it is undeniable that Fishbone rocks. Norwood and Fish are possibly the best rhythm section for any ska band I've ever heard, and Angelo, the ever-so charismatic frontman never holds back and just lets go as he belts it. I can't name another band that is equal parts metal, punk, ska and funk like they are. On "Truth And Soul", we see a lot of variety, from the metal adaptation of Curtis Mayfield's instrumental "Freddie's Dead" to the upbeat "Ma And Pa" to the slow, bass driven groove of "Pouring Rain". Here's a track by track review of this crazy record.
1. Freddie's Dead
Any fan of Curtis Mayfield might first be insulted by this song. They might think "Who do these guys think they are" You can't take just any soul classic and make it a metal song!" But as you listen on, you start to understand how well this actually works out. Fishbone does a good job of keeping the groove that Curtis made famous and just made simple changes like a distorted guitar with some heavy drumming behind it and guitar solos. Also, even though there were no words on Mayfield's version, the vocals really do add to the song in a positive way, then again, do Angelo's vocals ever take away from the song" I have to say though, the song drags on a bit and has little variation, but all in all is a solid opener.
2. Ma And Pa
Following a metal adaptation of a soul instrumental, we get an upbeat ska song that is very impressive. It starts like many a ska song, an intro consisting of whole notes, nothing fancy. Then, as the song exits the intro, Chris Dowd takes charge with very well-placed grunts that give a great effect to the song. Then Angelo breaks in and sings about an unsteady relationship between a mother and father. What's easy to overlook in this song is Dirty Walt's trumpet fills that really compliment Angelo's phrases during the verse. Something that really caught my attention on this song is, although only used once, Angelo Moore's awesome falsetto after the chorus. This song is really entertaining, and Norwood and Fish lay down a great ska groove for this song to work over.
3. Question Of Life
You wait.. you wait... you wait... and there it is! The explosion of Fish crashing the cymbal, Norwood laying down an intricate groove, and Dirty Walt nailing high notes on his trumpet, the first five seconds of this song are enough to earn it a spot on the best on the album list. Then we enter the verse. Angelo sings short phrases that are once again complimented by Dirty Walt filling in the space. Another thing to note is that during the verse, Kendall Jones does the signature ska chucking that is so common in reggae/ska music, but only while Angelo is singing, providing a lot of breathing room. The best part of the song comes after, during one of the verses when you hear Chris Dowd, Dirty Walt, and Angelo Moore belt "Will I not paassss the teeeeest". The rhythmic delivery of that line is what we had all been waiting for, and allows us to look forward to the rest of the song.
4. Pouring Rain
Pouring Rain is in a style which Fishbone had not previously attempted. This song relies on a slow, rolling groove set by Fish and Norwood and allows Angelo to really channel his emotions to make something truly impressive. As Moore belts "Can you sing out in the pouring rain"" We see that this song has done just that. And once again, Walt knows just when to deliver his horn stabs to really add to the song.
5. Deep Inside
This song really gets in your face after a slow groove like Pouring Rain. Deep Inside is a high energy, high-speed punk song with good vocal arrangements, and another good thing about this song is that you will never get tired of it, because it is only 1:22. Deep Inside is a really good way to change the mood of the album.
6. Mighty Long Way
Here we see Fishbone tackle yet another style they are unfamiliar with, blues. Mighty Long Way is just a blues song under a rock disguise. Kendall kicks it off with a great blues-rock riff over a shuffle beat set by Norwood and Fish. Then we get the usual vocal harmonies between Chris, Walt, and Angelo. The verses do a fantastic job of setting you up for the "statement" of the song, when all three singers come together and sing "Me and my friends go a mighty long way" Kendall comes back in with that great riff and rolls into a solo, and the good song becomes a masterpiece.
7.Bonin' In The Boneyard
Bass for your face! Here is a song that requires your fullest attention and patience if you really want to get the most out of it.
The song begins with the voice of an angry man shouting "What do you want why can't you leave me alone""" completely out of context. Then Fish kicks in with a kick snare beat, nothing fancy, just laying down groundwork for the rest of the band. Then Chris (Keys) Kendall (Guitar) Norwood (Bass) and Walt (Trumpet) follow suit and really beef up the song and make a ton of noise, forcing you to wait for what follows. Then the beat goes double time. After four measures of double time, all the loose ends come together to tie the tightest knot in the history of funk music. After that knot is tied, Norwood shows off his stuff. He lays down a groove so funky, so flashy, yet not arrogant and still allows Walt to play a nice horn melody. Then it all disappears and we start with Fish's drumming all over again. This time though, you don't have to wait, it hits you in the face. The loose ends come together once more and Fishbone brings back the groove. This time Angelo tags along and his best vocal performance on this album starting with "Got this feelin'". That's it, it's that simple, but so great. This song is endlessly fresh, and then we hear a Norwood Fisher bass solo, to top off the song. This beautifully arranged song is a hands-down 5/5
8. One Day
I honestly wish that the album ended after Bonin' In the Boneyard, because it seems like Fishbone used all of their creative efforts in the first half of the album or so. Not to say that any of these songs are particularly bad, it's just that these songs don't have the power that the first seven all did. One Day is a simple song that kicks off with another Kendall riff. This song does not feature Angelo as much as it does Walt on vocals, who is basically just talking, not singing. Nothing was particularly impressive on this album, but Fish and Norwood's groove was as solid as ever.
9. Subliminal Fascism
Here's another punk song from Fishbone. After the background screams we hear Chris Dowd descending a minor scale on the keys, which, for a punk song, fits in shockingly well. When Angelo comes in with the vocals, he sounds angry. He sounds angry because he's singing about stuff you can tell that he cares about. After the verse, Fishbone gets crazy again and keeps the same tempo as they play a more cheery little interlude. Well done, Fishbone. Then they bring you back into the high-energy verse, then back to the interlude, and before you know it, the song's over.
10. Slow Bus Movin' (Howard Beach Party)
I really don't know how to describe this song. Something that I did notice though is that they did it again. Change styles, that is. The song really does have the feel of bus moving, rather slowly too, and that is describing it to the best of my ability. This song bears no resemblance to any other Fishbone song ever recorded, and is definitely the outlier on the album. The chorus: "Round and round and round we go, the bus is movin' mighty slow" is delivered in such a manner that is truly foreign to the average Fishbone listener, but perhaps it is just that that makes this song interesting. Hmmm.
11. Ghetto Soundwave
Okay, I'll be honest. The opening riff is really lame. It sounds far too much like the satirical "Stacey's Mom" made famous by Fountains Of Wayne, and that song isn't even supposed to sound good. Lucky for us, the song only gets better. Norwood's bass line emerges and that eases some of the pain and disappointment of the intro. Out of nowhere, the chorus pops up. The chorus seems to have no relation to the rest of the song, but it's catchy and funky, something we love to see from Fishbone. This song is mediocre by Fishbone standards, but is not boring and will hold your attention.
Guess what, they did it again! But this time it's much more understandable, as Chris Dowd has confessed that he knew that he would have to be the one who wrote the pop song that put Fishbone on the map, and up to this point in time, it was the closest they had come to having a pop song that was catchy and could get stuck in people's heads. However, this song is just boring. We hear Kendall play the ballad chords, and Angelo explain how he will get people to change, but that's all that happens. Right at the end of the song, I feel like there is huge potential for a buildup and for everyone to come in and have the usual Fishbone explosion of noise we're used to, but that didn't happen. The saving grace of this song was Chris Dowd's keyboard vamping over the acoustic guitar ballad, and Angelo's rambling on about how we can change the world. This could've been a thrilling conclusion to a fantastic album, but no. Eh.
So in conclusion, through all the dips and dives, chucks and crashes, shrieks and croons, we end up with a great album that does not fall into any single category.