Denton Texas four-piece Fishboy are a band that like a story. If you’ve followed their career its been littered with story based albums, ep’s and 7inches, often accompanied by comic books that delve into the theme a little deeper. The album that started to get them noticed in the outside world was Albatross: How We Failed to Save the Lone Star with the Power of Rock and Roll, which followed the story of the ghost of Buddy Holly who teams up with the band in your everyday (well, maybe in the Fishboy world) tale of going on a crime spree / tour performing all the songs (chief songwriter) Eric Michener had written in his sleep since he was in the womb (all 8,030).
Now the band are back with a new album / wordless graphic novel based on, well, an elephant. Crucially though, its not just any elephant, but Topsy, the elephant famously electrocuted by Thomas Edison. Not completely new subject matter (think of Lucy Dysons brilliant animated video for All India Radio’s Persist), but the band have made good use of the story, or at least their version of it, which follows Topsy’s attempts to avenge her death and pass into the afterlife.
Opener Electrical Elephant sets the scene – a vehicle for Michener and his lyrical dexterity, tale telling, tall stories and scene setting, over this frankly (generally) lovely power-pop / indie rock. Its straight up, driving music, with something of the Los Campesinos! about it in places, slightly leftfield but essentially flowered with the kind of fuzzy bubblegum melodies that quickly get stuck to the bottom of your heart.
Both Thomas Alva waiting and ‘Elephant in the room’ follow a similar theme, the latter in particular being one of the albums melodic high points, a little splash of brass and feedback adding a little colour to the palette. Elsewhere on the album, Totes Parts 1 & 2 are both, in their own different way, lovely with just a hint of Eels and even Mudhoney as well as their own reference points (or at least that of the press release) Danielson minus the crusades and of Montreal minus the perversion and disco.
There’s many lovely moments on the record, the flash of emotion and anger in I’m a Ghost and the stuttering Bury My Body, but perhaps best is the heartbreak of the aftermath of Topsys death, beautifully handled in Bury My Body.
That they chose to shed light (no pun intended) on a story that deserves attention is one thing, that they’ve done it in such a thoughtful and in some ways unexpected fashion (not the banjo filled indie folk, full of pregnant pauses and faux sincerity I’d feared) is so refreshing. It’s a shame more people don’t know the story of Edison and Topsy, but it’d be even more of a shame if more people don’t hear this record from Fishboy.