We gave it an A-
Fishbone’s five previous releases throw everything at you with two-fisted fury — from funk to hardcore to hard rock to ska — in an attempt to re-create the spasmodic energy of the band’s apocalyptic live shows. While this mayhem has earned the group a strong cult following, it has not broken them onto the pop charts. But The Reality of My Surroundings does not find Fishbone toning down their music for a larger audience. Instead, they crank up the volume, pitching more into the mix instead of less, slinging us more complexity instead of simpler pop sound bites. The effect is sometimes a little overwhelming but never boring: The Motownish flair of ”Everyday Sunshine” sits alongside the gritty mid-tempo rock of ”Those Days Are Gone,” and the funky reggae of ”So Many Millions” shares billing with the faster, clipped ska of ”Housework.” These musical antics are distracting, but they never overshadow the lyrics’ searing, witty intelligence. On ”Sunless Saturday,” Fishbone’s voices blend to cry for social cleansing: ”Freedom come/For us now/Light our sky/Burn away these clouds.” If the rattling energy of this release is any indication, Fishbone is ready for a new pop world without artificial boundaries; we’ll see if this world is ready to catch up with Fishbone.