Edna's Goldfish - Before You Knew Better (Cover Artwork)

Edna's Goldfish

Edna's Goldfish: Before You Knew BetterBefore You Knew Better (1998)
Moon Ska Records

Reviewer Rating: 4.5

Contributed by: nedsammynedsammy
(others by this writer | submit your own)

In the late '90s, it is said (I was actually busy being 5 at the time), there were just too many ska-punk bands. On top of this, a lot of the bands were not particularly good, sticking to the formula and possessing inferior musical and lyrical skills to their predecessors. Though Edna's Goldfish, a .
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In the late '90s, it is said (I was actually busy being 5 at the time), there were just too many ska-punk bands. On top of this, a lot of the bands were not particularly good, sticking to the formula and possessing inferior musical and lyrical skills to their predecessors. Though Edna's Goldfish, a cult favorite from this era, weren't as creative musically as the likes of Slow Gherkin or King Prawn, they took the classic ska-punk formula (blazing guitars, tooting horns, big hooks, sad-sack lyrics) and did it so, so well, bringing a touch of trad ska, some excellent musicianship and marvellous lyrics.

The album opens up with "I'm Your Destiny," one of my favorite songs ever, in spite of all the hipster cred that I might lose. It's like an advert for ska-punk: fun, danceable, catchy and with fine lyrics. "Salty tears on a mostly blank page / Because you chose to ignore me / Down on my luck because you didn't answer and the letter that you mailed / It wasn't for me." They seemed better when I was younger but they're still good, and upheld by great melodies, Brian Diaz's beautiful voice, and the musical backing: a joyous horn line, buzzing bass, sparkling upstrokes and a fantastic trumpet solo (such solos are common throughout the album, setting the band apart from more basic, punk leaning acts). A perfect, infectious pop song placed in ska-punk context. The almost equally brilliant "Eventually Anyway" follows straight after, which also fits this description.

Elsewhere, there are simple upbeat skanks with excellent horn lines, such as "If You Want It" and "Trace Your Steps," the gorgeous (and horn-less) "This is Not Here," and the chilled rocksteady of "Sunrise to Sunset." There are tracks that aren't so great, this being said. "Gone Away"'s juxtaposition between bludgeoning metallic guitars and upbeat ska sounds clumsy. And while some of the lyrics, like those of "This is Not Here," are well written and pretty, some are a little corny or juvenile. "Story" opens with "You tell me / A story / Of how things used to be / The story / Is boring / I don't pay any attention." Not quite poetry. The track also suffers from sounding like an inferior version of "A Perfect Day," which comes just after. Though the band aren't plowing through the same song over and over again, and add in elements outside the usual ska-punk spectrum, some listeners might find the album a little samey.

In spite of these problems, listening to Before You Knew Better just feels good. It's like the band perfectly nailed the formula. The horns, guitars and rhythm section work together perfectly. It's all insanely catchy, and there are moments that are genuinely beautiful or ecstatic, like the trumpet solo in "Eventually Anyway" or the melancholic melody of "This is Not Here"'s chorus. It's a good, solid album, and something of a classic in my eyes, imperfect as it seems.


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
madapril (December 19, 2012)

Some of the best "Teen Angst" music to come out of the late '90s. Say what you will, but their music had heart and it was very well played. I was fortunate to see Edna's Goldfish maybe half a dozen times from 1997??2000. They were excellent live. This first record has a different feel and sound than the record that would follow; it's up-beat and punchy... more ska-influenced and the lyrics perfectly captured that state of being in limerence. The horn lines still sound amazing today. Never cared for their second album that much. I thought it was overly introspective and a little corny back in the day. Couldn't get into Brian's band after this either, The Reunion Show. It seemed like the music scene was changing fast and this style of music had its days numbered. Great to hear Edna's Goldfish get some props. I always thought they deserved more attention than they got.

nedsammy (October 27, 2012)

God dammit it wyld, you're lucky.

wyld_stallyns_rule (October 27, 2012)

Guilty as charged. Nothing tops a good 80's/90's time travel or body swap flick.
I saw Edna's Goldfish open for Slow Gherkin in a little deli years ago. By far my favorite show I've been to. I love this album for so many reasons.

coolhand (October 26, 2012)

This album was the soundtrack to my high school existence.

nedsammy (October 26, 2012)

Man, you really like time travel films.

wyld_stallyns_rule (October 26, 2012)

Your favorite song ever is entitled 'I'm Your Density', not 'I'm Your Destiny'. Rent a copy of Back To The Future if you need a reference point.

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