You’d be hard-pressed to find a person into the ska-punk scene who hasn’t heard of Reel Big Fish, since they broke into the mainstream in the mid-‘90s with their iconic single “Sell Out”. The song encapsulated the very essence of ska-punk – catchy, fun, and so damn uplifting. What made Reel Big Fish stand apart from their contemporaries was that, although the tunes instilled a positive feeling into anyone listening, the lyrics actually had a melancholic feel to them: songs about getting dumped, the hardships of being in a band and the evils of the music industry. This contrast is beautifully summarised in the latest of their material – and their first album in six years – Life Sucks… Let’s Dance!.
So, is it any good? Well perhaps I’m biased given I’m a massive fan of the Fish but, put simply, they have defiantly not lost their touch! The opening title track embodies everything a Reel Big Fish fan wants; catchy lyrics courtesy of frontman Aaron Barrett, ear candy guitar riffs, and all topped off with the group’s horn section – the cherry on top of this ska-punk sundae. As the title suggests, it maintains the cynical outlook on life that makes Reel Big Fish so unique, but it is a perfect tune to dance to. “Pissed Off” opens with in epic fashion with the band’s horn section before the rest of the guys chime in, and the appropriately vengeful lyrics kick in. It is a tune so many will relate to, narrating when that one person gets under your skin and pisses you off.
By now, there are familiar traits that crop up across Reel Big Fish records, and they’d be remiss on Life Sucks…. For instance, it wouldn’t be a Reel Big Fish record without at least one song about the delights of alcohol, and that’s exactly what we get with “Another Beer Song” – a possible call-back to their famous “Beer”. Again, the tune captures everything you need for a good ska-punk song, fast paced, fun and so, so easy to sing along too. In fact, it might be one of the best cuts on the album given how catchy it is, but this is a very tough call!
Welcome one, welcome all, to the “Ska Show”!
Another thing Reel Big Fish do so well is reggae, and the humorous “Bob Marley’s Toe” is exactly that, with a more chilled vibe than the rest of the record. The mid-section of the tune commentating “I wish that song was longer…. No, you don’t!” before going deeper into the Jamaican style with very heavy basslines and even sampling Bob Marley’s oh so famous lyric “every little thing’s gonna be alright” – a subtle yet important homage.
For most bands that go through a vast number of line-up shifts, the quality of the music gets diluted, but given that Aaron Barrett is now the only original member, it is a testament to his skills as a songwriter to have kept the standards so high. Although all the releases Reel Big Fish have put out are good in their own right, it is safe to say that Life Sucks… Let’s Dance! is one of the best albums they’ve recorded – fourteen songs of pure ska-punk perfection!
Life Sucks… Let’s Dance Track Listing:
01. Life Sucks… Let’s Dance
02. Pissed Off
03. You Can’t Have All of Me
04. In Love Again
05. Tongue Tied and Tipsy Too
06. Bleached Thang, Baby
07. Another Beer Song
08. Bob Marley’s Toe
09. Ska Show
10. The Good Old Days
11. G.D. Beautiful Day
12. I Should Know by Now
13. I’d Rather Get it Wrong
14. Walter’s Highlife
Run Time: 44:21
Release Date: December 21, 2018
Record Label: Rock Ridge Music
“You Can’t Have All of Me”, but you can at least have this single and video!