"I am a moron, I am an American," goes the chorus on "American," one of the finest examples of folk-punk satire that Fish Karma has ever created. It's at the center of longtime Tucson singer-songwriter and provocateur Karma's latest album, and his third for Jello Biafra's Alternative Tentacles.
With its Red Bull-swigging, iPad-toting, Muslim-hating, football-loving and YouTube-watching anti-protagonist, "American" is a perfect, scattershot parody, enlivened by a spot-on re-creation of mid-1980s punk rock. Karma and his ace backing band craft incredible arrangements—loving parodies in and of themselves—as settings for his pointed sarcasm and famously nontuneful voice.
Catchy garage rock is the vehicle for apocalyptic visions on "The Future of Textiles." Umlaut-metal gets sent up on "Heavy Metal Jowls," which explodes in un-ironic prog-rock splendor. Karma gets all topical on the mutant blues tune "Meanwhile, Back at the FEMA Camp"; he confronts corporate and religious hypocrisy on "A Toast"; and he essays Neil Young-style psychedelic-folk with "Shabbos Goy."
If there's any question whether Karma is at his best here, more vintage punk thrives on the brilliant "Swimming to the Homeland," in which neo-fascist brainwashing is likened to a sexy pop concert with a goose-stepping, femme fatale wet dream.
Karma's legendary ill humor has gotten sharper and more insightful with age. He's always been a grouchy old man—even when he was young and pretty—but his latest songs are more complex and fascinating than ever. It's hard to believe that, once upon a time, he opened up rock shows as a comedian telling jokes about Care Bears on crack.