Of the six L.A. kids who founded Fishbone in 1985, only three are still around for the band's latest release, "Fishbone & the Familyhood Nextperience Presents The Psychotic Friends Nuttwerx." Such attrition is to be expected for an act whose pioneering blend of ska, punk and funk generated sizzling media buzz in the early years but that never sold many records.
Like so many frustrated bands that never lived up to their high hopes, Fishbone turns to the usual prescriptions for the desperate: celebrity guests (George Clinton, Gwen Stefani, Perry Farrell, Flea, Rick James and Donny Osmond), outside songwriters (Dallas Austin and David Baerwald), and oldies (the Temptations' "Shaky Ground" and Sly & the Family Stone's "Everybody Is a Star"). Replacing the band's namesake drummer, Philip "Fish" Fisher, are industry pros who make the rhythms more accessible and less interesting.
Despite these handicaps, lead singer Angelo Moore and bassist Norwood Fisher co-wrote three songs that recapture the irreverent wit and contagious energy that once made Fishbone sound like P-Funk on a skateboard holiday in Jamaica. "It All Kept Startin' Over Again" is the ska-punk version of "Groundhog Day"; "Where'd You Get Those Pants?" is the tale of a fashion disaster; and "The Suffering" is a caustic look at romantic betrayal. These three tunes can't save the whole album, but they prove that Fishbone still has something to say.
Appearing Friday at the 9:30 club with Clones of Funk.
* To hear a free Sound Bite from Fishbone, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8111. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)