October 7, 2010

Sound Unseen 11: Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone

Screening as part of Sound Unseen 11 - Sat., Oct. 9, @ 5:00 PM @ the Trylon

Trivia question: What music was John Cusack blasting from his boombox in that iconic scene in Say Anything? If you think it's "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel, you're right - kind of. That song was reportedly added in post-production, while the music that was actually playing during filming was by a band named Fishbone, "one of the most distinctive and eclectic alternative rock bands of the late '80s", according to their allmusic profile.

This anecdote perfectly exemplifies the life of the band: loved by all the cool kids, but inevitably overshadowed by the radio-friendly pop music of the day. I myself knew little about the band, and even less about the world that shaped them, before seeing Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone. It's a great documentary not only because it chronicles Fishbone's career in an interesting way, but because it also appropriately addresses social issues like race and power, and reveals historical nuggets such as the African-American migration to Los Angeles and the birth of the punk scene in the San Fernando Valley.

Numerous rock stars in the film describe Fishbone's live show as one of the best they'd ever seen, a frenetic and chaotic musical mash of ska, rock, punk and funk. Part of the band's problem is that their sound was indescribable, or at least unmarketable for a long enough time that it was eventually deep-sixed by the emergence of gangsta rap and the pop-funk hits of bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Flea fully admits to stealing his style from Fishbone bassist Norwood Fisher). Meanwhile, the best friends who grew up together and comprised Fishbone's members ultimately struggled to maintain a working balance between their personal and professional relationships.

Whatever the reasons for the band's gradual disappearance, everyone agrees that it was far too soon. Everyday Sunshine may linger a little too long on the woeful whining of the band members over the years, but it presents a convincing case that their music was never properly appreciated for its influence and artistry. In doing so, the film gives Fishbone a chance at career redemption of sorts, even if they might not be featured on a movie soundtrack anytime soon.

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