FEW BANDS are as aggressively eclectic as Fishbone, thank God. This Los Angelean sextet sounds roughly like popular culture fed through a Cuisinart.
From reggae to punk to funk, from sea shanteys to ska, this band makes a point of throwing everything -- including the kitchen sink -- into its musical stew. The musical flavors they blend may not seem to go together at first, but "Fishbone," the group's debut EP, is nonetheless quite a tasty platter.
Among the reasons for this are the band's awesome stylistic fluidity, its resolute insistence on keeping things danceably energetic, and its genuinely winning sense of humor. It's the latter that seems to dominate; how else to explain the way a lugubrious sailor song could explode into the giddy goofiness of "Ugly"? But even the humor is fed by the band's far- flung musical knowlege, which allows it to agreeably warp Bizet's "Toreador Song" for "Party at Gound Zero."
No matter what tricks it plays, though, "Fishbone" maintains a breathless intensity sure to keep the listener hopping. In fact, the six songs here are practically exhausting in their buoyancy.
Blue Riddim is cooler by far. But then, that's to be expected, since this Kansas City band specializes in what the MC at Reggae Sunsplash described as "blue-eyed reggae." That's not to say Blue Riddim is in any way lightweight. As the performance captured at the Reggae Sunsplash on "Alive in Jamaica" clearly shows, this band is not easily dismissed.
In fact, Blue Riddim lays down an even heavier groove than UB40, in part because items like "Chariots of Fire" show a much greater imagination than anything UB40 has recorded. And this band isn't afraid to show its teeth, either through the snarling power of "Cuss Cuss" or the biting political satire of the EP "Nancy Goes to Moscow," which the band recorded with General Public's Ranking Roger.
FISHBONE -- "Fishbone" (Columbia B6C 40032); appearing Friday at the 9:30 Club. BLUE RIDDIM -- "Alive in Jamaica" (Flying Fish FF 325); "Nancy Goes to Moscow" (ORA 001); appearing Friday at Kilimanjaro's Heritage Hall.