REVIEW: IMAVOLCANO

Hello, and welcome to Fishboy Week! Yes, this week, I am throwing wizard rock to the wind, and will spend the entire week reviewing, analyzing, and discussing nothing but the works of Denton, Texas band, Fishboy. And what possible excuse could I have for this flagrant disregard for the theme of this blog, for my mission, for my very name?

IT’S MY BIRTHDAY BITCHES. HUP HUP HUP CANNOT FRONT.

Well, actually, yesterday was my birthday, but I was busy working and spending four hours arguing with my DM/roommate about numbers, ponies, grapple mechanics, and Bibleman.

So, my birthday present to myself is I get to spend a week blathering about my favorite band, using this tissue-thin excuse to revel in extreme self-indulgence. If this isn’t y’alls cup of tea, come back next week and we’ll resume original programming, but for now…

IMAVOLCANO

IMAVOLCANO is Fishboy’s newest release, a four-song (more like three and a half) EP that technically hasn’t been released yet, but you can listen to the whole album and buy a digital version right now on Bandcamp. In true Fishboy fashion, it is the moving story of a man who turns into a volcano, and must grapple with the consequences of his actions. It covers themes of seizing opportunity, finding your place in life, taking responsibility for your mistakes, and suicide, while still being upbeat and catchy as hell.

We start off with the titular track “IMAVOLCANO”, which musically is rather different than your usual Fishboy fare – it’s like a faster, busier “Race Car”, with electric guitars and audio distortions and fast drums all blurring together into a frenetic mess. The really interesting departure from the usual Fishboy sound is the effects on the vocals – Fishboy usually has very clean, understandable vocals, but it really helps to read along with the lyrics when listening to “IMAVOLCANO” the first couple times.

Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – the song is, surprisingly, about being a volcano, and the explosive nature of the music fits the lyrics perfectly, and it’s also catchy as hell. We also see another example of Fishboy’s favorite trick from Classic Creeps of overlaying two different lyrical sections of the song, but this time it’s just the first verse overlaid on itself, which works okay, but would probably overstay its welcome if it was used any more.

Then, halfway through we get to this lovely organ section that brings us down from the thunderous high of the beginning of the song, while the lyrics gets more wistful:

in the morning i’m snoring

and ignoring

ash that’s falling around me

The eruption is over, and the listener is clued in to the fact that this album is not just from the point of view of a strangely intelligent and musical volcano – “I’ll never ever be a man again”.

We then jump backwards in time with “Babyfood Jar”, which is a lyrical origin story, and musically carries some similarities to the Om Nom Noms-instrumented track “Broken Bones”, which was my favorite song on Nom. Between this and certain tracks on Classic Creeps (“Aaron the Afterthought Astronaut”, “Archibald Aspen”, etc), we’re seeing more and more folk influence make its way into Fishboy’s twee-pop sound (as if anyone actually knows what “twee-pop” means). The song is relentlessly catchy, the vocals are blessedly clean and clear in contrast to the previous song, and it features some classic Fishboy wisdom:

And if you’re sitting on the fence about something just do it

Cause you may not get another chance again

Even if it seems like its something really stupid

Well it may not be so stupid in the end

This calls back to Albatross’ “Race Car” – “here’s my advice to you: do what you do what you do what you do what you have got to do”, solidifying one of the main themes of Fishboy’s oeuvre as the exhortation to go out and grab life by the balls and damn the consequences – as long as you are true to yourself, things will work out in the end. For example, pretty much all of Albatross is about this, but especially “Parachute (Using the Ghost of Buddy Holly as a)” and “Taqueria Girl”, but also “Cobra Cobra”, “Our Escape”, and “Broken Bones”.

This admittedly solid advice then gets immediately turned on its head, and the true thesis of the album is revealed in “Dip My Head in Water”, my favorite track on the EP. This is Fisboy’s lyrics at their most fun and free, with rhymes tripping off the tongue in a dizzying succession, filled with fun similes and mental images. If you’re reading this, I assume you are either familiar with the album or are listening along on the Bandcamp page, but if not, seriously, check this song out, and after just a couple listens try not to sing along to the opening verses.

We learn that the main character is experiencing regret over, well, being a destructive force of nature that ends lives, and wishes to make amends:

maybe I’ll prevent disaster yet

but anyone who tries to kiss me

gonna get a little crispy

maybe they’ll forgive me

if I get my self real wet

In the grammatically ambivalent chorus we learn that his new plan is to somehow jump into the ocean and douse his flame (he must be unaware of the prevalence of underwater volcanoes – he should have watched more Magic School Bus as a kid). We then get a surprisingly gut-punchy bridge in the form of someone, be it another person or the main character’s conscience asking how wise the plan is – “what if you kill like once before?” – and our hero states “well that’s a chance I’m gonna take / cause I can’t bare to see them bake”.

From this song, but this bridge especially, we learn some important things about this character and this story – while there is something admirable about doing something you really want to, throwing caution to the wind, and living life to its fullest, this can also be destructive to both your life and the lives of those around you. Whereas “Babyfood Jar” was one of the main themes of Albatross in essence, “Dip My Head in Water” is Classic Creeps distilled (and surprisingly, neither of the songs has a single hint of daddy issues, another long-running theme in Fishboy’s lyrics): this main character with (somewhat) noble intent is a direct descendant from animal lover but child murderer Adrian Simmons; of Victor Allen Moss, the man who caused the death of at least 6 people and 1 owl as well as threatening the financial stability of umpteen families, all in his pursuit of a childhood dream; and of Andre Revere, a loving brother and talented writer whose quest to basically become Castle blinds him to the fact that he’s putting a freakin’ ten-year-old in immense danger. You can also see some threads of this in “Accidents” and “Saving Lincoln”.

Eric Michener has beautifully set up a very interesting dichotomy here, all in a less than ten-minute album that is in some ways the spiritual successor to a song entitled “Talking to the Doctor After Pressing the Elevator Button that Grew on Your Forehead Overnight Causing Your Legs to Grow Uncontrollably” (no, seriously): he asks the question, what is best in life? Well yes, besides crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you, and hearing the lamentations of their women? Should you embrace the adventure of the unknown whole-heartedly? After all, as Dumbledore taught us, when we fear darkness and death, we fear the unknown, and we can only truly live if we embrace that unknown, and that fear. But what if we go too far? When do you, to keep on this Dumbledore kick I’ve got going, cross the line from shunning fear and embracing life and following your dreams, to dwelling in dreams and forgetting to live?

Holy shit, I did not expect to be able to related this all back to Harry Potter as easily as I did. And by easily, I mean 1300 words in. Anyway, after some stellar lyrics work in the bridge, we then continue to dig into the meat of this unnamed character, as he contemplates his own possible demise: “Is this the ending is it just beginning / Will my world stop spinning when I flush my light?” The song ends with him fully accepting that this attempt to atone may be his last act ever – “au revoir life savers / adios / goodnight”. But the brilliant thing is that the listener is now led to question the nobleness and effectiveness of even this act: the bridge made it clear that it is entirely possible that he could end up killing people once again, but this character’s rash nature makes taking the passive route entirely impossible for him, giving us a portrait of a character entirely made up of good intentions, but ultimately deeply flawed. Oh, and musically it’s really swell too – eminently catchy, and reminiscent of some of the good songs off of Little D.

IMAVOLCANO wraps things up on an ambiguous note with “I Am Still a Volcano”, which is just a Classic Creeps Live-esque acoustic cover of the first half of the first song. We don’t really know what happened after his self-sacrifice attempt – as the title states, he is still a volcano, and is still “smoking late at night” and “sits around all day”, so it seems his attempt to stop his volcanic activities has failed. It is possible that he has a new home at the bottom of the sea, and thus is somewhat less destructive to human life, and the acoustic instrumentation in stark contrast with the sound of the title track does seem to imply that somewhat. Most of all, though, there seems to be an air of acceptance around things, which is highly reminiscent of the conclusion to the hero’s journey in Albatross.

However, while the hero of Albatross certainly made mistakes, and robbing banks is probably not the best thing to spend your life doing, he made friends, he enriched lives with music and whimsy, and he ultimately found himself in a good place, at least emotionally and spiritually speaking. The hero of this EP, however, may have found peace with himself, but at what untold human cost? Therefore, we end with a compromise between the optimism of Albatross and the pessimism of Classic Creeps, and the listener is left to examine not just the morality of the main character, but of themselves.

And this is in a 10 minute album about a guy drinking a combination of Nesquik and dirt and becoming a volcano.

There’s a reason why Fishboy is my favorite band of all time. I hope you enjoyed this first installment of Fishboy Week, and I’ll be back in a day or two to discuss something else, I’m thinking probably Nom or Classic Creeps next. And if anyone has any requests about specific Fishboy tunes you’d like me to dig in to, I’d be more than willing to take those under advisement! Oh, and yesterday was my birthday so you all have to tell me how awesome I am.

Wrock Snob out.

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