Reel Big Fish - Why Do They Rock So Hard?
Release Date: October 20th, 1998
Record Label: Mojo/Jive Records
I sit here questioning myself if anybody remembers the days when Southern California's finest were on top of the world? Okay, so mabye not the world, but Reel Big Fish sure as hell made their mark on the booming ska scene at the time. Why Do They Rock So Hard?, the bands sophmore album on Mojo Records (later re-released on their current record label, Jive), is a bouncy collection of seventeen zany ska jams, all compiled into what is arguably the bands most appealing and impressive effort to date.
The album first makes its mark with "Somebody Hates Me", the perfect opener for any ska release. Although extremely similar in many ways to Reel Big Fish's previous release, Turn The Radio Off, we're blasted with another dose of the jittery, infectious ska/rock combinations frontman Aaron Barrett and the gang seem to consistenly provide. Lyrically, you can expect the same sort of sarcastic, witty humour on this track, and the album as a whole. Following the opener comes "Brand New Song", which begins with bassist Matt Wong driving us into an unusually harder guitar riff, which is most uncommon from the Fish. However, just over half a minute into the song you find yourself forgetting everything you just heard, as you're launched into another couple minutes into Reel Big Fish's preferred field: poppy, radio friendly ska/rock. Also, you'll find yourself cracking up at such hilarious lyrical high points as "I've got a brand new girlfriend, she is so lovely lovely. I've got a new ex-girlfriend, she is so fat and ugly." Next up comes "She's Famous Now", a tale regarding one of Mr. Barretts female friends who hit the bigtimes (i'll leave it to you to guess the rest). This song in particular is a prime display of the stunning, original guitar work of the bands frontman, as well as another crack at the bands comedic value.
Moving along to the records first single and fifth track, "The Set Up (You Need This)", the Fish decide to leave out the ska, and move in more of a rock fiesta direction. Complete with a guitar solo deserving of your rock fist, as well as a bright display of trumpet player Scott Klopfenstein's vocal ability, this turns out to be classified easily as one of the most promising focal points on the record. As we reach the seventh track, "I'm Cool", the tempo drops about 500 notches as we're skyrocketed into the reggae side of the guys. This relaxing tune comes as a breath of fresh air (if you haven't been dancing, what the hell have you been doing?), standing reminiscent of something you might hear from Bob Marley or the Toots and Maytals. "I Want Your Girlfriend To Be My Girlfriend Too", the eight track in line, seems to cover it's lyrical content in the title alone. However, musically, this is the most accurate flashback to the bands earlier days, complete with a sing-a-long chorus and a mid-tempo breakdown, before the typically sped up, yet entertaining finale.
Skipping forwards to "Song #3", which is actually the records tenth arrangement, we experience a more authentic Jamaican reggae vibe, featuring Coolie Ranx (formerly of The Pilfers) on the microphone. "Scott's a Dork", a tale which is undoubtedly focused on the aforementioned trumpet player, is more or less everything you'd expect from a Reel Big Fish song. However, in no way am I criticizing the bands variety, as each track thus far makes me itching for the next. "Big Star", an almost all acoustic number, takes the previous styles we've experienced on this album and flushes them down the drain. Don't expect to come across too many of these, yet the gang seems to pull it off flawlessly, topping it all off with a fast-paced ending which is reminiscent of a mind-blowing broadway extravaganza. Track 13, "The Kids Don't Like It", showcases the talent and infectiousness of the bands brass section, amidst one of the most hook-filled ballads so far. "We Care", on the other hand, is a personal message from the band to their fans just to let them know they care about them, all the while throwing cracks here and there at the people who have not been quite as supportive.
Overall, i'm finding it quite hard to find anything to complain about. Why Do They Rock So Hard? is one of the most catchy, enthusiastic, and entertaining albums to date, and deserves to be an essential part of any ska listeners record collection. Unlike alot of record these days, the sophmore effort from So. Cal's jittery ska-rockstars provides you with over an hour of some of the finest recreation of its kind. Ska, reggae, punk, rock, slow, fast, happy, angry, it's all here, and I can honestly say that Reel Big Fish succeeded in achieving every goal they strived for. I highly suggest picking this one up on a shelf near you, and finding out what these kids have to offer.