Skafish: Skafish DLX RM US CD 
- Joan Fan Club
- Maybe One Time
- Obsessions Of You
- We’ll See A Psychiatrist
- Romantic Lessons
- Sink Or Swim
- Work Song
- Guardian Angel
- Disgracing The Family Name
- No Liberation Here
- Take It Out On You
This CD reissue has been in the works for a while now. I first saw in 2016 that Jim Skafish had successfully petitioned the former I.R.S. Records for the rights to his 1980 debut album, which in itself, was some crazy kind of triumph. At the time, any notion of master tape access for the job was laughable, so two sealed copies were acquired by Skafish and his mastering engineer, Trevor Sadler. It was assumed that this would be as good a mastering source as they could get, but eventually, a two track master was sourced so that the new CD could really go places, sonically.
The next few years had Skafish asking his fans how/what/why/where questions but after all was said and done, the people spoke, and it was determined that a CD would be the form that this reissue would take. If other fans were anything like me, they already had the LPs by this artist! We wanted that evasive CD format and when it went to Kickstarter last summer, the non-LP B-side of “Sink Or Swim” was made a part of the program. The campaign was a roaring success with the goal met within the first 72 hours with fans delivering approximately four times the buy-in sought by the artist. And now it’s in our CD player!
The album opened in the most oblique way possible. “Introduction” was a brief spoken word piece performed by band member Barbie Goodrich assuming the persona of an incredibly naive, and clueless, cheerleader stumbling upward through a social life that was gifted to her on the basis of her appearance. It’s a few years after high school and she’s blithely unaware that her teenaged years might have been her peak already as she is still waiting for Prince Charming to drop into her lap. The eerie music bed bubbling up from the subterraneans suggested that she hopes in vain.
And from that unsettling beginning the listener was next whip-panned violently into the teenaged psychodrama of “Joan Fan Club.” Here we learned that now matter how bad Barbie the cheerleader had it in the first track [and it was way worse than she could possibly imagine], there were those like Joan, who got a much rawer deal! The roaring punk tempo guitars of the deceptive into soon settled into a darkly theatrical piece of 50s bobby-socks rock that would not have felt out of place in the score to the play “Grease.” The cartoonishly obnoxious squelchy synthesizer of Javier Cruz undercut the expectation of serious content as the song seemed like for all the world a playful childish lark. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Skafish himself, who certainly knew a thing or two about childhood torment, unflinchingly stared the beast itself into the eye by taking on the antagonist role in this tale of teen bullying. He fully articulated the ugliness of the pack in deciding which targets of weakness to take down en masse. The song had no resolution; suggesting that the status quo of this antagonistic relationship was a constant. The first irony was that for all we knew, Barbie the cheerleader could have been amongst the school pack that had decided to make Joan’s life utterly miserable. After all, she was vacuous and self-absorbed enough to have no empathy for someone like Joan. The further irony was that at least Joan knew that the rules were against her from the start and could possibly survive the wear and tear of living; unlike deer-in-headlights Barbie the cheerleader who seemed poised for a greater fall even after playing by the rules of the game.
As if to further disorient the listener, the next song, “Maybe One Time” was a bittersweet ballad, beautifully sung and played by Skafish and his band, and it had been injected into as emotionally terrorized a musical landscape as possible; judging by the first two songs. But if listener payed careful attention to the lyrics here, then they would surely be heartbroken as Skafish outlined the crippling loneliness of one who sees love and affection anywhere but in their own life.
The stylistic reach of this already beyond eclectic album then took a plunge into the turbulent waters of the glam rock of its late 70s milieu with “Obsessions Of You.” The muscular guitar licks of Ken Bronowski combined with the theatrical vocals of Skafish and company to hit close to the vibe of the Rocky Horror soundtrack. The syndrum hits were a powerful hook to this rhythmic beast, but the lyrics were almost a seamless continuation of the preceding “Maybe One Time” only couched this time in a more defiant pose. But this time the despair of the lyrics flirted with the ultimate nihilism.
“I might kill myself today
‘Cause I want you
You don’t want me
I want my way
I won’t give in
This time I won’t compromise
my dream of having you” – “Obsessions Of You”
That’s a seriously dark message for those paying attention. And throughout this enormous song, not only is Skafish singing his heart out, but his band are negotiating rapid shifts in mood and meter as the song ultimately began on a glam rock footing only to climax as an operetta. Then the dark heart of the album was unleashed with the indescribable “We’ll See A Psychiatrist.” The Zappa-esque music of this song used Brechtian theatricality and massed vocals to find its way through a psychic minefield so fraught with pain that I fully understand how Skafish simply couldn’t have sung this one alone. He only soloed on the song’s chorus, which was its title repeated several times. By its halfway point the song began to derail into chaos with the climax devolving into sheer, nerve shredding noise.
Next: …Sinking Or Swimming With The Tide
I was hoping to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign, but since PayPal wasn’t an option (and the end of summer was quite busy for me), I couldn’t provide any support for the reissue. I hope Jim has extra CDs remaining for those who didn’t take part in the Kickstarter effort. I’m so gratified to see that he was able to re-acquire his I.R.S. recordings for reissue. Looking forward to the rest of your review, PPM!
Zach – I hope that now that the disc is mastered that the artist could replicate more to meet any demands. For example DiscMakers, a popular replicator, can produce 100 6 panel digipak full-color label printed CDs for about $400 after taxes. These days, many CDs are a run that short. I’m not sure if they ink-jet print the CD or silk screen it in the traditional way. The “Skafish” disc is a glass mastered CD in a 6 panel digipak and the disc label looked silkscreened. In other words, no cut corners.
postpunkmonk: I do intend on keeping the debut album available from here on out! It had been out of print for far far too long! Plus, I am planning on re-releasing everything that was once available. And, there’s a lot that has never been released which I hope to get out there as well, and I am so excited about creating new music! Thanks for your support – it is appreciated!
skafish – This reissue has gone exceptionally well. Congrats on your careful planning and execution. I’ll be interested in hearing the changes wrought that 40 more years of living will bring to any new work we get to hear.
Zach: I appreciate your thoughts and I am so glad that I got the rights back, too – it was a laborious effort, but well worth it! The official release date for the album is November 29, 2019 and the music and merch are all available at my Bandcamp store.