music reviews by my Dad:
IMAVOLCANO 7” EP by Fishboy
I was struck by the almost satirical culture clash: two seemingly antagonistic subcultures thrown together in close quarters—made closer and muggier by a rare August rain.
How exactly the indie rock/punk rock festival called “Growing Up is Dumb” came to be held at American Legion Post 30 in Pomona, California, is probably a fascinating story, but one beyond my limited knowledge. All I know is that hordes of black-clad, tattooed, pierced, and anti-establishment youth descended upon that bastion of the proud veterans of the American military service.
I was there to see my daughter’s band perform, but during one of the breaks something caught my eye. It was an old yellowed photograph on the wall of a World War I army officer. His earnest gaze, something I found myself drawn to, seemed to be directed to the very stage area where the bands were performing, one after another. Capt. Charles P. Rowe, I found out later, died not long after that picture was taken, on a battlefield in France, a hero to his troops in a war against tyranny and fascism. But that night, it felt like Capt. Rowe was watching those performances over our shoulders, deeply interested in a spectacle quite beyond his experience.
That was the strange incongruous setting in which I encountered, and enjoyed, the band called Fishboy. Incongruous, that is, but not inharmonious. And it is great to have actually attended a live performance by a band that I am reviewing. Fishboy has, among its several releases, a 7” four-track vinyl record, complete with an exquisite comic book which illustrates and narrates the four-chapter saga of Imavolcano. And quite an existential saga it is.
The opening track (the title track) of Imavolcano shows exactly what I mean. “IMAVOLCANO” introduces us, with an irrepressible beat and up-tempo lyrics, to the hero of the story: an apparently semi-active volcano who seems to be a good natured fellow but who lacks self-awareness to a large degree. The song’s vocals are good and the instrumentals are professional caliber. I very much like the instrumental interlude (mainly keyboard, I guess) that follows the up-tempo portion, and is joined by slower-tempo vocals that take us to the end of Chapter 1. At that point our Volcano has, with the help of his loyal friends, achieved a dynamic new self-image.
Chapter 2 (“Babyfood Jar”) dawns with another compelling drumbeat (a backbeat?) and crisp, twangy vocals telling a moral tale about the empowerment of making life-changing decisions that may take on volcanic proportions. There is ambiguity here: are we all volcanos in our hearts? Are volcanos forever searching for their inner humanity? We are left with the swirling irony of these riddles to keep us up at night. But we must be brave, and face “The Dilemma” (“Dip My Head in Water”) in Chapter 3, where selflessness and sacrifice contend with our love for life itself. Just as Fishboy’s insistent drums and nimble guitars contend for supremacy, while the vivacious vocals rise to a well-harmonized point-counterpoint duel.
And, the uplifting finale: “I am Still a Volcano”. Although it reprises the title song, the finale gives us a softer, tinkling, xylophonic kind of sound, and brings in some more of Fishboy’s delightful point-counterpoint harmonies.
Now, the one thing that you can’t get from listening to Fishboy’s album is the extreme energy of the band when it plays live. Fishboy is, to my ancient eyes, a bundle of hyper-energy and perpetual motion. Fishboy epitomizes perfectly the free spirit that is so intrinsic to indie or punk rock music. And it is that free spirit that brings the gleam to Capt. Charles P. Rowe’s eyes. You look in those eyes and you know he is proud of his country, a land where punk rockers and American Legionaires can hang out in mutual respect, share a beer, trade a joke or two, and bring smiles to one another’s faces. I like that America. Tragic though was his fate, Charles P. Rowe must know that he did not die in vain.
Listen or buy here: http://yofishboy.bandcamp.com/