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Fish Karma’s first-rate rock!

click to enlarge Karma and his music has never been a high-minded, stuffy drag.

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Karma and his music has never been a high-minded, stuffy drag.

Comedy has always been about storytelling as much as punchlines. The punchline is just the point and the point is a reflection—of individual life, of greater society, of political and social structures. And in that reflection, the painting of the comedian, is not only the absurdity, but the utterly foolish pettiness of what feels like pain in the knotted angst of existence.

Historically, gluing the aesthetics of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to the tune of popular song is a wade in perilous waters. The most popular musical parodist of the last 30 years is "Weird" Al Yankovic, with his catalog of cheap rips on current hits and the premise that polka never ceases to be funny. But that's the difference between parody and satire—parody is a skin-deep exaggeration of stereotypes and satire is a cutting mirror shard back at the world.

Besides being a top-notch satirist with nary a hint of parody, Tucson mainstay Fish Karma is also legitimate musically, with debts to early punk rock and the acid-folk of Syd Barrett in his multi-layered output. In other words, the songs are musical compositions with incisive, occasionally funny lyrics, not flimsy jokes attached to flimsy tunes.

More, Karma and his music has never been a high-minded, stuffy drag. On his latest album, Schwa, the songs are sturdy, catchy and almost funky. His take on rock 'n' roll, less idiosyncratic than ever, is propulsive, never precious and the lyrics—the last remaining vestige of the satire Karma is known for are half-sung, sometimes shouted in the tradition of the most vital boomer rock, which is to say Karma is no more a clown and no less serious than, say, Bob Dylan.

click to enlarge fish_cover.jpg

On songs like "Zero Sum Game," "Mrs. Fortescu" and "The Northwest Passage"—some of Schwa's finest—the beats, fuzzy guitar riffs and Karma's syncopated and exhilarating singing voice all coalesce into a neo-traditional rock 'n' roll style, not too far away from classic-rock radio playlists, but far more energized than anyone whose recording career dates back to the early '80s—Billy Squier's heyday, for example—could be expected to produce.

Put simply, Schwa is a first rate rock record from a grown-up prankster, and while the little girls probably won't understand, there's no reason for the men not to be jumping out of their wheelchairs for Fish Karma and Schwa.

Go to fishkarma.net for more info ...

More by Joshua Levine

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