To underestimate the influence of Fishbone on the history of modern music is to make a grave, lopsided error. This hybrid entourage proved they were rigged to live longer than Two Tone danceable Untouchables, able to stick closer to roots than the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and retain their convergence culture material like few bands on planet earth. They may have started by playing in the dank depths of southern California at Madame Wong’s gigging with the likes of punk icons the Dicks and weird rockers Tupelo Sex Chain, but their nimble, even acrobatic musicianship proved, in essence, that their genre lacks walls and boundaries. They easily pour forth jazz-inflections, willowy and forceful funk fusion (c’mon, just listen to the Sly Stone-infused funk romp “Bonin’ in the Boneyard”), top-form reggae, and ska-bursts (the jittery, jumpin’, and searing Sublime cover “Date Rape” out performs the original), all wrapped in hardcore-era intensities and party prowess proclivities. As their early 1990’s outings proved (ala Give a Monkey a Brain…), and tunes like “Behind Closed Doors” attest, they also have churning metalhead riffage tucked under their belts as well. It’s hard to pin them down before they slip away, mind-boggling and manic. “Party at Ground Zero” may be their true manifesto and testament; just imagine New Orleans in full frenzy, a kind of whiplash gospel-punk in Saturday night fever mode. Plus, you get their gnarly version of godfather Curtis Mayfield’s “Freddie’s Dead.” Their newest French live film, filmed in crystalline soundscapes and fluid color, has it all: the choicest, never-chilled tracks representing the deepest gyrating grooves. It’s even streaming free on their website. So, put away your Gnarls Barkley CDs and get back to the future. Forget the hype of the “new.” Sometimes history is best recognized in living actors bearing traditions on tongues of fire.


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