ISSUE: circa 1986
by PAUL BURTON
WHEN THE FIBONACCIS opened their set at the New Music America festival in Los Angeles recently with their Resident-like "Romp of the Meiji Sycophants," they sounded as if they were parodying the evening's New Music pretensions. John Dentino's electro-gamelan DX-7 and Top Corey's hyper-vibrato mandolin skated over Joe Berardi's temple block percussion and Magie Song's cheesy cymbal crashes in a quasi-oriental sing-song that could have been theme music for "The Odd Couple" if it had been made in Taiwan. That a self-styled art bar band playing avant-pop music could even be included among Morton Subotnic, Carla Bley, Daniel Lentz, and Harold Budd as representatives of New Music shows that someone noticed wit and intelligence behind the Fibonaccis' subversion of style and fracturing of form.
The Fibs brought literacy and intelligence to "New Wave" in 1981 with their "Fellini-circus-chamber-muzak-from-hell" combination of spaghetti western flavors with cynical and somber poetry. Their debut EP on Index won critical raves and established the band as a creative and original presence on the L.A.Scene, but record companies and radio practically ignored the Fibonaccis. How do you program the Fibs' version of Bernard Herrmann's theme music from "Psycho" on AOR radio? How do you market a group that plays the funky song "Tumor" (which asks, "When the tumor comes...who you gonna screw?")alongside the Kabuki cabaret of "Rice Song"? A band whose musical influences have been described as "incomprehensibly vast" is hard to peg into the square black hole of Radio Americana and recycled rock cliches, yet the Fibonaccis continue to evolve and expand their musical and lyrical horizons.
On stage the Fibs are a tight unit, swinging from the movin' and groovin' jazz of"Disgusting Man" and the dreamy "Somnambulist" into the Oompah-ska "Love Machine Polka"and ethno-warp disco of "Action Yogi" ("he's a new kind of guru/his temple is a Subaru"). Keyboardist Dentino qualifies as the Salvador Dali of the DX-7, with an infinite palette of musical colors juxtaposed and blended into a thinking person's guide to "civilization and its discotheques." Bassist Tom Corey doubles on guitar, picking up where original guitarist Ron Stringer left off, playing syncopated R&B riffs and weaving fluid, melodic lines around Magie Song's operatic vignettes. Drummer Joe Berardi's percussion creates its own musical presence, utilizing subtle wood block arpeggios, quick bursts of raw power, and propulsive jazz-rock. A hallmark of the Fibs' sound seems to be a rinky-dink, almost jauntiness with lyrics that convey a darkness and danger that below the bubbly surface - an area populated by outcasts, geeks and sociopathic characters.
"I think the part of our personalities that makes us want to deal with these kinds of characters is the impulse of malicious joy,"explains Dentino. This attitude is conveyed most dramatically in Magie's rendition of Rhoda Pennmark's soliloquy from The Bad Seed in the song of the same name, as Magie becomes the voice of childish cruelty, taunting and prancing, chanting "I kept hitting him, and hitting him, and hitting him...". In "Old Mean Ed Gein" Magie plays a teenage girl writing to Charles Manson about her new hero, Ed Gein, who "introduced me to the beauty of bones." (In real life Ed Gein was a farmer in rural Wisconsin who was arrested for the murder of a local woman in 1957 and kept a collection of female body parts,culled from the local graveyard, that he fashioned into masks and ornaments.) If the Fibonaccis repertoire sounds like an X-rated National Enquirer, listen to "Dancing With The Bears," the Fibs' only overtly political song, wherein "the President is fat and angry and he shakes his tiny head/half the people on his island have their name on apiece of lead." The Fibs have elevated a fascination with morbidity and decadence into wry social commentary.
In 1984, the Fibonaccis produced their first video, a hilarious send-up of cults,deprogrammers, and 60's casualties in their twisted rendition of "Purple Haze." "Purple Haze" can be heard on the Radio Tokyo Vol. 2 compilation, and a live version of "Disgusting Man" leads off the recently released Lives of the Lhasa collection. The Fibs have also recorded a soundtrack piece, "Looking For Eddie," for the Film Noir cassette released by Ding Dong Records in the Netherlands.