Since the dawn of pop music, one question has haunted songwriters the world over, stumping even some of the greatest and most creative: Can you write an entire EP about nothing but fish?
OKC’s own King of Experimental-Pop, the inimitable Jarvix, is here to prove, once and for all, that it’s not only possible but that if done correctly, you can create something shockingly fun and poignant by singing about, well, only fish.
Let’s get one thing out of the way right upfront. Yes, if you’re going to talk about weirdo prog-pop songs about marine life, it’s inevitable that you’ll bump up against the legendary Ween’s landmark late-90’s masterpiece “The Mollusk.”
There’s plenty of Ween to be found here, as there arguably is in much of Jarvix’s output, particularly his insistence on never catering to expectations, but whereas their ocean-centric album includes shanties and sailor songs, “OnlyFish” is about only fish.
Jarvix has done it. He’s cracked the code and achieved the impossible, his success reflected perfectly in his own tale of the magical unicornfish willing itself into existence.
In all seriousness, “OnlyFish” seems on the surface (ocean pun!) like a pointlessly wacky and random experiment, but like all “concept” records, it goes far deeper than you may fathom (more ocean puns!)
The music here, as with nearly everything by Jarvix, is densely layered, deceptively complex, and unassailably fun. His irrepressible experimentation never hits you over the head or overreaches its welcome. Instead, he’s able to find little ways to sneak his creativity into catchy melodies and hooks. A stray trumpet might float by, breaching just long enough to blow a little Sufjan Stevens your way, or a sharp, Blade Runner-esque synth will accompany an energetic instrumental passage otherwise built from free-flowing arpeggios and ukulele. And it’s a pretty safe bet to assume you’ve probably never heard a rap in 9/8 time before, and especially not one about the lionfish.
So the music is fun and whimsical and the lyrics are all about fish. It could all stop right there and just be fun and odd and creative, but again, this one actually does go deeper.
Jarvix clearly casts his ocean creatures as conduits for a wide range of very human issues. The armored searobin is filled with self-doubt about its own appearance, but Jarvix praises and reassures that its armor is there to keep it strong. The unicornfish has dreams that seem impossible and ridiculous, and Jarvix (along with guest Rachel Bachman) show it the encouragement needed to “grow that horn.”
Then there are the darker human issues at play, and strange as it may seem, Jarvix is just as capable of re-casting them with marine life as well.
He and special guest Caj (of Sativa Prophets) turn the troublesome lionfish into an allegory of overpopulation and resource scarcity. The docile bonnethead shark becomes an unlikely victim of violent prejudice and ignorance, stoked by pop culture and mass media.
Maybe this is all reading too far into it. Maybe “OnlyFish” is just a small collection of sometimes funny, always fun ukulele-heavy fish songs, and maybe that’s all it’s supposed to be.
Or maybe Jarvix knew exactly what he was doing when he gave these songs (pardon one last ocean pun) surprising depth.
“OnlyFish” is now streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, and Bandcamp.
And … this!
Everyone’s favorite award-winning all-90’s cover band, My So Called Band, is marking their very first post-quarantine OKC appearance this Saturday, August 28th, at Tower Theatre. The immensely popular local tribute act hasn’t graced a stage in Oklahoma City since February of 2020, so it’s only reasonable to expect some new treats and surprises! Get tickets now, and be aware that this is a vaccinated-only show.
Last Updated August 24, 2021, 9:27 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor