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Reel Big Fish - Cheer Up! Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 8
Musicianship 8.75
Lyrics 7.75
Production 9
Creativity 7
Lasting Value 7
Reviewer Tilt 8
Final Verdict: 79%
Member Ratings
Vocals 8.67
Musicianship 9.25
Lyrics 9.25
Production 9.42
Creativity 8.42
Lasting Value 9.5
Reviewer Tilt 9.25
Average: 91%
Inside AP.net

Reel Big Fish - Cheer Up!

Reviewed by: Chris Fallon (03/27/08)
Reel Big Fish - Cheer Up!
Record Label: Mojo / Jive
Released: June 25, 2002


Third wave ska punk is a tricky genre to label. The classic pioneers who helped established the genre are bands like Operation Ivy and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, while it was popularized by Less Than Jake, Goldfinger, and Reel Big Fish in the 1990’s. As many active bands continue to play around with this genre (Catch-22, Westbound Train, Big D & the Kids Table for instance), taking a DIY approach and sticking to the roots ska was based upon, many other bands wear their popular music influences on their sleeves more often than not.

Reel Big Fish have cycled through an extensive lineup over the years, and as big a hit their 1994 ska-tinged single “Sell Out” was, the band has always been more widely partial to pop punk, mixing horns into their upbeat pop sound. Perhaps this is the band’s own demise, as many listeners can be scared away by the sound of horns in background when in actuality it spices up the harmonies on many songs and adds richness and depth to an otherwise boring pop riff. On their fourth album, 2002’s Cheer Up!, Reel Big Fish ringleader Aaron Barrett goes full-throttle on taking advantage of his knack for writing catchy pop hooks, keeping with the self-loathing lyrics put on top of an upbeat melody. Never has negativity been so uplifting.

A majority of Cheer Up!’s songs distance themselves from the traditional ska punk sounds Reel Big Fish made a name for themselves with, including the sugary sweet “Good Thing” which might have thrown the wrench into many longtime fans’ gear almost immediately. From there, the album moves into more incredibly-addicting and catchy numbers, all while using less and less of the horns. This was inevitably the complaint Reel Big Fish and later, Less Than Jake and Goldfinger would hear from many fans, even though the pop influences had long been peeking through.

In essence, Cheer Up! is not a bad album – in fact, it is actually one of the stronger albums Reel Big Fish have released. After the ska/metal hybrid of Why Do They Rock So Hard, Barret shifted the focus to genuinely upbeat pop for a good chunk of this album, before going into a reggae-lite cover of a Sublime song and an a capella rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” There’s even a tongue-in-cheek jab at 80’s hair metal bands with “Rock and Roll is Bitchin',” along with a Spanish instrumental. Perhaps these songs could be seen as filler (the album lasts for over an hour), but the strengths Barrett and his trusty comrades possess lie in the most melody-driven songs – also known as, “the pop songs.”

“Valerie” and “Ban the Tube Top” are bouncy and carefree; “Suckers” zips through with some lush horn arrangements; and the toe-tapping title track hits the right spot while managing to be drenched in self-deprecating lyrics. Scott Klopfenstein, the band’s multi-instrumental extraordinaire, even takes lead vocal duties on the album closer, “Drunk Again,” a melancholy ballad in which I'm not sure whether I should smirk or not (you can also find a hidden bonus track after this song, a cover of J. Geils Band “Give It To Me”).

As much flack Reel Big Fish might get for ditching their ska beginnings, there is no denying the band is meant for this type of music blend. They are far too good at spinning pessimism and quirkiness into songs that make listeners smile and bop their heads, with great backup vocals (courtesy of Klopfenstein) and excellent guitar solos (that battle alongside the horns). The draw of this band is Barrett and his talents as lead vocalist, songwriter, producer, and guitarist, and in the end, he proves why he has the reigns: he cheers us up with his negativity. That has to count for something.

Track Listing01. Good Thing
02. Somebody Loved Me
03. Ban the Tube Top
04. Cheer Up
05. Where Have You Been?
06. Suckers
07. What Are Friends For?
08. A Little Doubt Goes a Long Way
09. Dateless Losers
10. Valerie
11. Rock and Roll is Bitchin'
12. New York, New York (Frank Sinatra cover)
13. Sayonara Señorita
14. Boss DJ (Sublime cover)
15. Brand New Hero
16. Drunk Again

Recommended if You LikeLess Than Jake's Anthem, bubblegum, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones' Pay Attention, throwing pies at people, Bowling for Soup's A Hangover You Don't Deserve

myspace.com/reelbigfish
 
Displaying posts 1 - 9 of 9
12:04 PM on 04/02/08
#2
Adrian Villagomez
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Keep these classic reviews coming as long as you like. This music's going to be new to some users.
06:40 AM on 04/03/08
#3
CellarGhosts
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Another ace review, Chris.

as far as classics go, do you think you could review Lagwagon's Hoss? absolutely love that album, I think it'd be cool to see your review on it
07:04 AM on 04/03/08
#4
Adrian Villagomez
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Another ace review, Chris.

as far as classics go, do you think you could review Lagwagon's Hoss? absolutely love that album, I think it'd be cool to see your review on it
We have a request!
07:22 AM on 04/03/08
#5
CellarGhosts
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haha indeed we do.

I've been working on a couple reviews for recent releases myself, it's tougher work than I thought/than it should be hah.
10:42 AM on 04/04/08
#6
NinjaJew
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Keep these classic reviews coming as long as you like. This music's going to be new to some users.

This album's new to me.

Reel Big Fish has always skirted on the edge of my music taste. Your review encouraged me to pick up this album and give it a serious listen. Bravo Fallon.
11:24 AM on 04/04/08
#7
Adrian Villagomez
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This album's new to me.

Reel Big Fish has always skirted on the edge of my music taste. Your review encouraged me to pick up this album and give it a serious listen. Bravo Fallon.
Awesome. Just awesome.
02:33 AM on 04/05/08
#8
Chris Fallon
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Another ace review, Chris.

as far as classics go, do you think you could review Lagwagon's Hoss? absolutely love that album, I think it'd be cool to see your review on it
You got it, buddy - I was actually thinking about Lagwagon yesterday and Hoss is my favorite of theirs, so I will get on that later in the week. Thanks for the input, dude.

haha indeed we do.

I've been working on a couple reviews for recent releases myself, it's tougher work than I thought/than it should be hah.
You can do it!!!!

This album's new to me.

Reel Big Fish has always skirted on the edge of my music taste. Your review encouraged me to pick up this album and give it a serious listen. Bravo Fallon.
Thank you very much, sir. You should also check out their two albums they released before this. I don't think their recent material has been nearly as strong, but Why Do They Rock So Hard? is my personal favorite.
09:15 AM on 04/05/08
#9
CellarGhosts
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You got it, buddy - I was actually thinking about Lagwagon yesterday and Hoss is my favorite of theirs, so I will get on that later in the week. Thanks for the input, dude.


You can do it!!!!


Thank you very much, sir. You should also check out their two albums they released before this. I don't think their recent material has been nearly as strong, but Why Do They Rock So Hard? is my personal favorite.
Ah, cool! looking forward to it.

haha I'll try! I'm working on reviews for the new Flogging Molly, Anti-Flag, and No Use For A Name.
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