FISHBONE — Give a Monkey a Brain and He'll Swear He's the Center of the Universe

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FISHBONE - Give a Monkey a Brain and He'll Swear He's the Center of the Universe cover
4.67 | 5 ratings | 1 review
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Album · 1993

Filed under Funk Metal
By FISHBONE

Tracklist

1. Swim (4:42)
2. Servitude (5:20)
3. Black Flowers (5:46)
4. Unyielding Conditioning (4:45)
5. Properties Of Propaganda (Fuk This Shit On Up) (5:22)
6. The Warmth Of Your Breath (4:55)
7. Lemon Meringue (6:10)
8. They All Have Abandoned Their Hopes (4:58)
9. End The Reign (5:23)
10. Drunk Skitzo (5:17)
11. No Fear (6:01)
12. Nutt Megalomaniac (5:43)

Total Time 64:22

Line-up/Musicians

- Angelo Moore / saxophone, vocals
- Walter A. Kibby II / trumpet, vocals
- Kendall Jones / lead guitar, vocals
- Chris Dowd / keyboards, trombone, vocals
- John Bigham / guitar, keyboard
- John Norwood Fisher / bass guitar, vocals
- Philip Fisher / drums

- Billy Nelson / backing vocals (track 7)
- Branford Marsalis / saxophone (track 10)
- Aklia Chin / backing vocals (track 12)
- Kristen Vigard / backing vocals (track 12)
- Vicki Calhoun / backing vocals (track 12)
- Donald Cully / handclaps (track 12)
- Serf Conceicao / handclaps (track 12)

About this release

The full title is Give A Monkey A Brain And He'll Swear He's The Center Of The Universe. Released by Columbia.

Thanks to Stooge for the addition and Lynx33, siLLy puPPy for the updates

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FISHBONE GIVE A MONKEY A BRAIN AND HE'LL SWEAR HE'S THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

siLLy puPPy
FISHBONE really stepped things up with their 1991 classic “The Reality Of My Surroundings” by adding stealthy doses of alternative metal to their already electric palette of ska, punk, funk and soul which allowed the band to experiment in myriad directions beyond the hyperactive funk ska of their earlier years. The band experienced minor success with that album which reached as high as No. 49 on the Billboard album charts, but sadly FISHBONE didn’t quite break free from their cult status as one of the sharpest badass fusion bands that delivered the social commentary of gangsta rap dressed up with the goofiest sense of humor and outstandingly brilliant compositions played by seven of the dopest musicians in the entire rock scene.

Two years later they followed up with the fourth full-album GIVE A MONKEY A BRAIN AND HE'LL SWEAR HE'S THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE which gets my vote as one of the coolest album titles in all of rock history. Stylistically FISHBONE continues expanding their musical tentacles into the furthest reaches of what they had been known for but also crafted a darker more inauspicious lyrical delivery with biting critiques of society and life under the perpetual thumb of the US empire. Unlike the smooth delivery of the previous album, GIVE A MONKEY with its incessant delivery of disparate musical styles proved to be too much for the fanbase and the album despite its utter brilliance got panned by the critics and went over the heads of the fans despite the fact that the metal was more metal, the funk tracks were funkier than ever and the humor while tamped down was still lurking under every cadence in a less in yer face manner.

It is so true that the album lacks the cohesiveness of its predecessor and instead GIVE A MONKEY exercises a series of mood setting units. The album slaps you in the face with the two heaviest tracks “Swim” and “Servitude” with the thundering grunge distortion and frenetic metal riffing with pummeling percussive drive dripping with snarling attitude. Considered the heaviest tracks of FISHBONE’s entire canon, they deliver an unexpected douse of heavy metal that nothing on “The Reality Of My Surroundings” even came close to. However, after the two headbangers, the freneticism cools off a bit with “Black Flowers” providing more of a transitory metal ballad type of energy despite the darkened lyrical content free of any cliche love song antics. The track provides some stellar church organ as well as ending with a sort of “Hey Jude” type of outro that loops around for a lengthy time. After these three heavy guitar units rear their ugly heads, the band surprisingly reverts back to their origins with the hyperactive ska funk track “Unyielding Condition” which also hosts stellar vocal tradeoffs.

The Funkadelic and Parliament funk rock influenced prowess continues on the sarcastic “Properties Of Propaganda” but the band throws another curve ball with the return to the heavy metal in “The Warmth Of Your Breath” but also breaks out some serious off-kilter funk riffs which makes this the ultimate funk metal track of all time IMHO. The album turns sombre with the funk and horn sections in “Lemon Meringue” and “They All Have Abandoned Their Hopes,” two tracks that are upbeat in sound but provide downer lyrics as does the guitar driven “End The Reign” which drops the funk and ska and focuses more on a standard hard rock sound in mid-tempo. The strangest track on the album is clearly “Drunk Skitzo” which features a funky groove and some completely unhinged vocals that leads to a frenetic jazz section with guest musicians Branford Marsalis providing a sultry sax freakout. The ending is augmented by atonality, weird sound effects and a dip into the truly surreal.

The album ends with the return to a nice mix of the church organ, rock guitar and bass and funky groove underbelly with the two closers “No Fear” and “Nutt Megalomaniac” which after a playing time of over 64 minutes always leaves me wanting more. This album may have been a let down at first following the perfection of “The Realities Of My Surroundings,” but in time this one has emerged to be just as prophetic and utterly addictive. The melodies are infectious, the compositions are divine and the performances are outstanding. The lyrics are tantamount to a brilliant hip hop album only dressed up in rock / funk / ska / metal clothing. Not to mention the mesmerizing album cover that folds out into one of the coolest astrological art scenes in music history. This album doesn’t have a bad track on it and although it doesn’t flow as perfectly as it should, the collection of disparate tracks is a perfect one and while certain tracks may hook you instantly, they all will if you give this album enough spins. Somehow, some way, this one has weaseled its way into my top 100 albums of all time.

Sadly the album failed to generate the momentum that carried FISHBONE to the next level and fizzled out at No. 99 on the album charts. The album was simply misunderstood and lacked the instant connection factor that so many modern music fans require. The financial frustrations of carrying on were too much for several members and the two primary songwriters guitarist Kendall Jones and keyboardist / trombonist Chris Dowd would leave the band after this album. The band continued in name but the magic had been lost as starting with the following “Chim Chim’s Badass Revenge” having much simpler song structures that were clearly trying to generate a pop hit or two. This is the end of the line for the classic FISHBONE era and together with “The Reality Of My Surroundings,” GIVE A MONKEY A BRAIN AND HE'LL SWEAR HE'S THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE is a bona fide masterpiece of musical accomplishment. Woefully underrated this one is. I simply cannot understand why others don’t find this to be one of the greatest rock albums of all time.

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