Thursday, June 02, 2011

Blast from the Past: School of Fish

Title:  School of Fish (Amazon, AllMusic, Wikipedia)
Artist:  School of Fish (, AllMusic, Wikipedia)

School of Fish’s self-titled 1991 debut album perfectly captured that pre-Nirvana early ‘90s alternative rock groove mixing elements of power pop and ‘60s rock.  I suspect that this band spent a lot of time listening to college rock records by the likes of The Smithereens, The Smiths, The Replacements, and Toad the Wet Sprocket along side ‘60s hippy era records by the likes of The Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, and Jimi Hendrix.  The resulting product is a record that is oozing ‘60s nostalgia through the lens of ‘80s underground rock that turned out to be an excellent segues to the rest of the ‘90s. 

The album opens with the trippy and catchy “Intro” that is a mid-tempo number that simply says “I want to change the way the world affects me, I want to dace in the face of all that could be.”  I honestly couldn’t think of a better introduction to the 1990s than that.  “Intro” then fades into the band’s biggest hit “3 Strange Days,” and extremely infectious power pop number with crunchy guitars and a killer hook – “For three strange days, I had no obligations, my mind was a blur, I did not know what to do.”  I’m honestly surprised that this song wasn’t a bigger hit than it was.  Next is “Talk Like Strangers,” a sad song about a failing relationship.  The failing relationship theme continues in “Deep End” which cries “I wouldn’t wish it on you.”  “King of the Dollar” is a rocking number that attacks those who put greed and money above all else.  It also does a great job of including a bit of The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.”  “Speechless” is the first of three fantastic ballads on the second half of the record.  Admittedly I’ve never been able to figure out exactly what this song is about – beyond dealing with difficult emotions that are hard to express – but the lyrics are touching nonetheless.  Just take a look at this chorus –
And sometimes I find what I need
Sometimes I don’t find anything
But I’m waiting on that day to come
I’m waiting on my heart to sing
Now I’m speechless
I am tongue-tied
I am speechless
And it’s all bottled up inside
Up next is “Wrong” a catchy mid-tempo power pop number about a girl.  “Rose Colored Glasses” is another power pop number that deals is a commentary on how personal perception can often be wrong.  Both “Wrong” and “Rose Colored Glasses” remind me a bit of Cheap Trick.  “Under the Microscope” is a ballad that is probably the weakest moment on the entire record, not because it is bad but because it just does hold up to the hold up against the other tracks.  The album closes out with the other two fantastic ballads on the album “Fell” and “Euphoria.”  “Fell” is a simple acoustic song that is a lament to the girl in the front row as she leaves the show before the singer can tell her how he feels.  Finally “Euphoria” brings the album to a close with its trippy tale of someone trying to break through his lover defenses by letting down his own guard, letting her know that she can’t hurt him anymore.  

School of Fish put out a follow up record in 1993 titled Human Cannonball.  From what I remember the record was more rockin’ in nature than its predecessor and a good listen but not as good as their debut.  The band broke up in 1994 and sadly the lead singer Josh Clayton-Felt died in 2000 after a battle with cancer, he was 32.    

For those who were there and experienced this record at the time, I’m sure that it brings back moments of memory and nostalgia for a time now long past.  To those who didn’t catch School of Fish the first time around, this is a great power pop / college rock record for fans of any of the aforementioned bands.  The record may sound dated now 20 years later, but for me it takes me back to my youth and still sounds vibrant. 

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