The Reality of My Surroundings, by Fishbone
Suggested by Peet Denny
Disclaimer: When I was eighteen, this was my favourite album.
While this isn’t quite the first album in the project which I had heard before my Randomised Play, it’s definitely the first album that I unconditionally, unequivocally love. Or loved, as I said, when I was eighteen. I remember long nights in my first flat, playing this tape back to back, scouring the sleeve notes, devouring the lyrics, rocking and punking and funking with every damn track.
I’m a little nervous about reviewing it, if I’m honest. Although it was legitimately suggested by someone else, and legitimately Randomised into the rotation, it feels like my album, like my choice. And, if truth be told, I’ve not listened to it as an actual album for years. I’ve cherry-picked songs, sure; it’s the age of the stream, the curated playlist. Consumed whole, as the band intended… will it still cut the mustard?
Even in their era, Fishbone felt like an outlier, a fringe consideration. Their full-on funky sound is literally a Party at Ground Zero, powered by atomic brass, nuclear guitars, apocalyptic drums, and mushroom cloud bass. Towering over it all are the incredible vocals of Angelo Moore, both frenetic and graceful, capable of soaring harmony alongside manic diatribe, directing the soaring and swooping airforce that comprises this sonic squadron. Capable of a multitude of genres while refusing to be pigeonholed, their gigantic sound delivers on every imaginable level.
To me, at least. When I was eighteen.
From the eighteen available, there are a full seven that could qualify as my standout track. The opener Fight The Youth is a polished call to arms which sets up the tone and timbre to come. The joyous ska typhoon that is Housework? I defy ANYONE not to smile and swing and sing along with that. Pressure is a high-octane pop-punk gallop that grabs you by the shoulders and applies a rough shaking; the slapping bass of the pimp-funk Naz-Tee May’en is glorious celebration of high camp heterosexuality; the erotically charged Babyhead is the most pornographic descriptor of a chocolate bar you’ll ever hear, and Sunless Saturday is a wonderfully anthemic barnstormer that both reports and denounces the reality of the band’s surroundings, just as the album promised.
And above them all is the only track I could possibly choose as my favourite, the phenomenal Everyday Sunshine. From the opening bass stabs that blend into sassy brass and beyond, Everyday Sunshine captures the sound of summer heat, with an exultant vocal that is eternally uplifting, elevating the melancholy lyrics and building to a magnificent crescendo. This song isn’t just my favourite on the album, it’s the standout track of my entire life.
Listening now, there’s an unhindered joy I feel in all the right places, but there’s also a few pernicious issues that bring home the point that, well, I’m not eighteen anymore. The segmented live song “If I Were A… I’d” is a lot more annoying at 46 than it was in my teen pomp. The Junkie’s Prayer, which I loved back in the day, seems indulgent and needlessly acidic, and there’s an oily sheen of sexual impropriety that’s slightly unnerving. As an album, it doesn’t quite hold up to artistic scrutiny. But as a collection of songs? Incendiary.
I’m no longer eighteen, but this album takes me right back and rocks me while I’m there. Warts and all, The Reality of My Surroundings gets a strong 9/10, marked with an asterisk as it’s coming at the competition punching, backed by twenty-eight years of personal history.