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Fishbone Live At The Temple Bar & More / Friendliest Psychosis Of All

By David Tarlow, Contributor
Friday, August 16, 2002 @ 6:12 PM

(Nuttsactor 5)

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Well, it’s about time. The mighty Fishbone have finally gone indie. After years of toiling away on various major labels and having truly great albums strangled by label politics and bad marketing, the ‘Bone finally wised up and sidestepped the game entirely, forming their own label, management company and booking agency. Always known for packin’ them in on the road, Fishbone has never really been able to translate that into record sales or big hits (“Party at Ground Zero” notwithstanding… and boy does that song take on a whole new meaning post Sept. 11). Maybe it’s their unique but twisted blend of metal, ska, punk, funk and R&B, all grounded up into one noisy, horn-y cosmic slop that ain’t exactly radio friendly. Maybe it’s their outspoken, militant, ant-racism, anti-corporatism, anti-government, pro-sex, drugs and rock n’ soul attitude. Or maybe it’s that they’re so sex-obsessed that they insist on using the word “Nut” is just about every song title, album title, theme and concept they come up with. It’s no surprise their label is called Nuttscator 5 and features large brown nut as the logo (and I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout no peanut either). Whatever the reasons may be, Fishbone are underground legends that never cease to amaze with their stunning live show but have always left critics and fans scratching their heads with their albums. This pair of EPs will likely continue in that time-honored tradition…

Friendliest Psychosis Of All is a 3-song opus that is longer than most bands entire albums. Each tune is a leftover from 2000’s Psychotic Friends Nuttwerx on Hollywood Records and features a vast array of musical guests including Les Claypool and Primus, The Liks (a.k.a. rappers Tha Alkaholiks), George Clinton, members of P-Funk and more. Being jams more than actual songs, you can see why they got pulled from that album by folks at the label. “Let Dem Hoes Fight, Pt. 2” is the strongest cut and the only one that really resembles an actual song in terms of traditional structure. Guitarist Spacey T (formerly of Sound Barrier and Mother’s Finest) lets loose some metallic riffing and frantic lead guitar while new drummer John Steward hammers the beat home. “Friendly Psychosis” is a hip hop tune gone insanely awry, invaded by speed metal breaks and jazz-funk break beats, while the hyperactive “X-Quewz Mee, Dr. Madd Vibe, Emergency House Call Pull-Ease” sounds like it could be off one of frontman Angelo Moore’s (a.k.a. Dr. Madd Vibe) spoken word solo albums but with a hellhound backbeat. Musically, it’s all top notch and there’s certainly a freewheelin’, fun-lovin’ vibe goin’ on, but it’s not their strongest material by a long shot and all three sound basically like what they are, leftovers, filler.

Now one would think that a long overdue live album from the ‘Bone would find them right at home in their element, tight as a gnat’s ass and on fire, blazing thru the old classic to the delight of their hardcore fans. Well, you’d be half right. On Live At The Temple Bar & More they are solid as a rock and the crowd certainly eats up every second of it, however they play all brand new tunes, no hits, and there are only 8 songs (granted the album clocks in at almost an hour, but still, I woulda preferred 15 songs in an hour instead of 8). And again, the songwriting is a bit sketchy here…

“Skank n’ Go Nutts” is a bit of a throw back to their old skankin’ days of the early ‘80s, but lacks the memorable hooks they had in the days of the original lineup. “Premadawnutt” suffers from the same disease -- great riffs, terrific lyrics but no real distinguishable hooks or outstanding chorus. “Demon In Here” and “Last Dayz, Critical Times” both have inspired moments but are too long and sound more like a series of parts than actual structured songs. “Demon In Here” starts off with Angelo sharp shooting some wicked poetry over some Spacey acoustic guitar before launching into a speed metal dub-reggae groove lead by trumpeter “Dirty” Walt Kibby’s raspy lead vocals. “Last Dayz, Critical Times” sounds like it could be right off Give A Monkey A Brain…, with it’s “Swim”-like heavy metal crunch and chugging, sludgey tempo.

However, it’s not all so baffling. On “Get Out of the City” the band are right back in their element, laying down a slinky, sexy horn-driven groove that allows Angelo to unleash some his James Brown on acid style blues vocals and really tear it loose. “Are You Wit It?” is pure OG Bone funk, all thick and meaty and tenderized by bassist Norwood Fisher’s slinky bass, truly the backbone of the Bone. “In the Heat of Anger” is an up tempo rocker with a hint of salsa in the groove and a great vocal hook. It’s the strongest tune in the set and the most reminiscent of what made Fishbone so great back in the day.

I suppose when running your own label you can afford such indulgences, and Fishbone have certainly earned the right to indulge, but creative license does not necessarily mean go hog wild. Let me make it clear though, neither one of these albums are bad by any stretch of the imagination, it’s just that they lack the focus and soul-power of classics like Truth and Soul or Reality of My Surroundings. For a band that used to be so drenched in R&B and ska, they are sounding more and more like a typical funk metal band, the kind of band that were probably influenced by Fishbone in the first place. They seem to be relying on beats, riffs and technical prowess over actual songwriting. Like the great Homer Simpson once said, “Less artsy, more fartsy!” And so it was said…

* * Friendliest Psychosis Of All

* * ½ Live At The Temple Bar & More

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