Truth and Soul
Too Mind-Blowing for Alternative Rock Hipsters
A party band with a pronounced political streak, Fishbone came blazing out of South Central Los Angeles in the early 1980s with an audacious blend of funk, ska, R&B, and punk specially designed to jolt stoned suburban teens from their stupor. The six-piece was initially regarded as a wacky novelty—what else could a group of African American kids mixing hardcore punk and skittering island rhythms be? But after a few years of legendary performances, the Fishbone mind-meld took hold, and others started sniffing the possibilities. The band became pioneers of a new kind of rock, its frenzied double-time jitters and hazy ska paving the way for No Doubt and countless less imaginative skate-punk bands.
None of Fishbone's followers got any-where near the warp-speed delirium evident on Truth and Soul, the band's second album. Referencing jolly circus-sideshow tunes, Sun Ra horn squalls, and utopia-minded psychedelic rock refrains, Fishbone tossed previously isolated musical ideas together, and used the resulting combustion as fuel. To hear this in action, check out "Bonin' in the Boneyard." It begins with a ripping up-tempo funk pulse that gets looser as it goes along, until the chorus erupts. And what a chorus: This gleeful sun-dazed "yeah, yeah" vocal chant carries the very DNA of rock and roll inside it. When the funk returns, there's no pronounced transition—instead the music just glides into the next gear and keeps rolling.
Truth and Soul begins with a cover of Curtis Mayfield's cautionary drug tale "Freddie's Dead." Every subsequent track visits a new locale, and each seems to draw on a different kind of renegade creativity: Sometimes Fishbone's over-powering musical muscle helps focus outrage about persistent racism ("Subliminal Fascism"), and sometimes a buoyant beat is used to lighten up a heavy subject like divorce ("Ma and Pa"). Fishbone was never able to transition from being the alt-rock daily special to headlining act, another instance of a great band being too hip even for hipsters.
Genre: R&B, Rock
Released: 1988, Columbia
Key Tracks: "Ma and Pa," "Freddie's Dead," "Bonin' in the Boneyard," "Subliminal Fascism," "Ghetto Soundwave"
Catalog Choice: The Reality of My Surroundings
Next Stop: The Roots: The Roots Come Alive
After That: Los Amigos Invisibles: Arepa 3000
Book Page: 278
#1 from Denver D, Cincinnati, OH - 11/13/2008 1:31
pleasantly surprised to see Fishbone make the list. “Truth and Soul” is a fantastic album. Fishbone was extremely under achieving yet fabulous unit. I think that America as a whole was not ready for their brand of music being played by African Americans in the 1980’s. Along with their stage antics and superior musicianship, Fishbone is a great band and “Truth and Soul” a great record, period.
#2 from Nick T, Philly - 12/12/2008 2:10
Truth and Soul was my first Fishbone album. It’s quite good and is their most consistent album, but “The Reality of My Surroundings” is where they explode and really bring all the energy, anger and honesty truly needed to tell their tale of growing up in Cali, and not the nice part.
“How many million” talks about the miseducation of youth in America.
‘Your education can do me no good, in my neighborhood’
It goes on to feature “Housework” the bumpinest song you’ll ever hear about household chores. “Pray to the Junkiemaker” sheds some light on crackheads/drug addicts and how sad and self-destructive they can be.
It ends with “Sunless Saturday” which I guess was the single. It comes in hard and while focusing on sunless saturdays, it makes you aspire for as much sunlight as one can stand.