Citizen Fish are not a teen-age ska-punk band made up of glitzy hipsters; nor are they so removed from the music's roots that they think the Skatalites enabled better television reception. Instead, they're an English quartet who helped kick-start the genre almost 20 years ago as the Subhumans. Back in '81, that band mixed dub and reggae with hardcore political punk on “Human Error,” a formula that became their standard. The group's demise in the mid-'80s, meanwhile, wasn't so much the death of a great punk outfit as the transition to a purer form of ska-punk; their next incarnation, Culture Shock, paved the way for today's glut of limelight-soaked wannabes, while Citizen Fish, founded in 1990, continue shaming their better-fed brethren with every new release. The band's 1996 record, Thirst, is yet another foray into twisted 2-tone — yet it's also fresh and relevant. Songs such as “Words on Overtime” give testament to CF's diversity: The track moves between standard 2-tone timing and building choruses, yet uses extremely varied melodies that most ska-punk bands have yet to discover. When all the hype about the genre fades — along with its big-money contracts — Citizen Fish will still be there, living show to show and completely devoted to their frenetic sound.
— Robert Arriaga
Citizen Fish play Monday, June 22, at 9 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Texas). Saint James Infirmary and Cooper S. open. Tickets are $7; call 621-4455.