Vinyl Vlog 283

Vinyl Vlog 283

Sunday, 03 December 2017

A deeper look at the grooves pressed into Pocket FishRmen’s The Greatest Story Ever Told LP/CD set.

In the grand tradition of bands including The Big Boys, Butthole Surfers, Scratch Acid and Daddy Longhead, Austin’s Pocket FishRmen were an archetype Texas punk band in that their artistic vision was a little skewed. They always seemed a little frazzled and they always – always – did things their own way. Even this compilation release is a testament to that “their own way, always” ethic; rather than simply compiling a bunch of songs from their myriad releases (which all date between 1988 and 2012), the group took the track list and re-recorded all of the songs specifically for this release and, in order to keep cost relatively low, released a set containing 1LP and then including the balance of the songs that they wanted to include on a CD in order to keep cost down. In effect, Pocket FishRmen have gone out of their way to ensure that listeners get as much music as possible one way or another and, while the songs are not new, The Greatest Story Ever Told is a fresh, cohesive and solid sounding album which is much better and more engaging than any other album of its type.

As soon as a needle sinks into The Greatest Story Ever Told and “The Leader Is Burning” begins crashing and banging around to open the album’s A-side, some listeners will find they’re transported back to a time which actually predates Pocket FishRmen’s first days in operation; here – with the speedy and lean guitar assault and fairly cardboard-sounding drums along with Brant Bingamon’s completely un-effected vocals [that is, vocals which are under-produced and lacking in any equalization or effects], listeners will find themselves instantly transported back to the early days of Southern California punk – that period when expression meant more than style or talent and there were no rules because the bands were still writing them as they went. Sure – the actual meaning behind “The Leader Is Burning” is a little soft (the general idea is that it is a little surfy, a little skate-y (and old school – like the stuff coming when there were kings skating Dogtown) and a little sci-fi, and the overabundance of adrenaline makes up for any and all shortcomings. Those who remember the time will have no trouble getting sucked right back in as they “remember when.”

After “The Leader Is Burning” gets listeners in through the door, “Go Go Saddam Hussein” takes listeners out to the nearest drained swimming pool for a mega grind session, and that’s there the part really starts. There’s no chance that it won’t feel a little weird, but resisting the urge to pogo as Pocket FishRmen batter the constraints of rhythm and meter (check out lines like “In the middle of the egg toss/ That’s when I tore my dick off,” for example) is perfectly futile.There’s no question at the band’s willful depravity here, but that doesn’t make it any less perverse fun! Line-by-line and timbre-by-timbre, Pocket FishRmen brush close to Dead Kennedys with their styling and political angling here but, unlike the Kennedys, Pocket FishRmen choose to keep their brows low, their humor sophomoric and their demeanor silly over sardonic. There’s no debate around the band’s intelligence here but, unlike the DKs or even (another Texas band) The Dicks, Pocket FishRmen keep their mood light which keeps the song fun instead of getting critical.

As the side continues, any question about whether or not Pocket FishRmen are happy to keep the mod of th album light is removed by songs which feature titles like “Big Ass On Fire,” “Sex Billy” and “Priapus Power.” In each of those cases, Bingamon plays the comedy card in a similar manner to how Dexter Holland and Laonard Phillips used to but, unlike those singers, he doesn’t bother to hide the teeth that that he puts into his sociological examinations here. In fact, almost every track on the A-side of the album feels as though it could have some fantastic bite but the candy coating on each keeps them from looking too treacherous, initially. When “One Blowjob” flounces along to close the side, it provides a “silly for silly’s sake” relief that the running to this point really needed; after having ripped the hell out of some social mores viciously for a while, the goofs-for-grins nature of “One Blowjob” feels good and refreshing.

After “One Blowjob” lightens up the end of The Greatest Story Ever Told‘s A-side, the B- goes back to more poppy skate-punk ground immediately as “Queen Of The Gorillas” opens the side but, rather than feeling like a recoil, listeners will just find themselves happy to get back into the rhythm of things. They’ll be happy to follow this group of class clowns because the band is doing what they do best and, as each track gives way to the next (with particular standouts being “Oft Times When We Pork,” the “Angel Of The Morning” send-up “David of the Merkin” and “Colonoscopy”), the fact that not one song misses the mark proves that it’s all anyone really needed from them.

Looking at The Greatest Story Ever Told as a whole, no fan will deny that the set is satisfying – although those who aren’t won over will definitely not get the appeal. Why? Well, other bands have been known to grow up or progress in some way from one point to the next, but The Greatest Story Ever Told illustrates that such things were never asked of Pocket FishRmen – so the band never did that. No one will be able to deny that every single turn through this running sees the band remaining rubber-faced and silly and some critics will find that frustrating, but others will find it delightful. If nothing else, The Greatest Story Ever Told illustrates that Pocket FishRmen always remained true to themselves and their muse no matter what and, while it might not have been for everyone, the music always found some receptive ears and will continue to do so here. [Bill Adams]


The Greatest Story Ever Told is out now on Saustex Records. Buy it here on Amazon.


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