Saturday, May 26, 2012

Song of the Day: Fishbone, "Sunless Saturday"

No one still needs to learn that happy music isn't written by happy people. Yet there's something shocking about all the misery in Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone, the Laurence Fishburne-narrated documentary about the world's most transcendent ska band. 

Onstage, Fishbone are a jubilant blast of acrobatics, stage dives and and singalongs, sons of James Brown and fathers of Andrew W.K. Watching peers (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Primus) and followers (Sublime, No Doubt) find the success that eludes Fishbone is sad, but seeing middle-aged Angelo Moore move back in with his mom, bassist Norwood Fisher charged with kidnapping the band's Rapture-pushing guitarist and nearly-empty record store signings for a band that once performed on SNL is downright disheartening. It's funny to watch no one show up to an Anvil show, but only because Anvil got a second chance.

Before Kendall Jones started believing that his bandmates were demons, he wrote one of Fishbone's best songs, "Sunless Saturday."

Fishbone were on a major label (but not for much longer) and had the budget to get Spike Lee to direct their music video. To Lee's credit, it catches some of the frenzied excitement of a Fishbone show without ever looking like a concert movie.

"Sunless Saturday" is heavy, in the way that something with horns and major key progressions can still sound like helter skelter. The melody's controlled chaos makes me wonder how the band lasted ten years before someone went insane.

It's isn't punk, funk, metal or ska--Wikipedia calls it "alternative," which confirms that no one really knew what to do with Fishbone. Everyday Sunshine interviewees argue that they "were too black," "weren't black enough," "were too ahead of their time" or "should have been less of a democracy," the latter point being the only one that Fishbone's records back up. But everyone seems to agree on "Sunless Saturday."

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