Happiness is easily achieved when soundtracked by ska. It’s a long proven fact. Add sunshine to the mix and who needs Prozac?
Unfortunately for most of the world though, Summer comes but once a year and ska doesn’t make all that much sense when the Heaven’s are pissing on your parade in a cold South Westerly direction. Unless.
Unless beer is involved. Cue a montage of me, my friends and I skanking our little hearts out on a sweat drenched dancefloor at 4 in the morning, smiles from ear to ear and inaudible belly laughs when someone eventually pushes the skank to slippery floor ratio.
Alcohol aside, don’t worry it’s not out of reach-just not the main focal point for the moment, it’s sunshine that really sells ska. You can believe in brass when there’s an enormous ball of gas burning brightly in the sky uninhibited. So it’s with perfect timing then that Reel Big Fish make their long awaited return to original material. This being their first studio album of new material in five years.
Perfect timing to the week even, this having just been the most gloriously sunny week in some time, and despite a forecast of rain that was lived up to during the small hours of this morning, it’s a sunny week that seems to be welcomely overstaying. Shortly after writing this review, I shall be making the most of the finest beer gardens the Valleys have to offer. Then regret it when I have to wake at an offensively early time tomorrow and put up with shit from people like you on the phones.
Seven studio albums in and 20 years down the line. Reel Big Fish are a little long in the tooth now. Line up changes aside, listening to Candy Coated Fury you could so easily be listening to band’s follow up to 1998’s Why Do They Rock So Hard? Not their seventh album, fourteen years later.
This is something the band know themselves; “This album is a lot like our first two albums. It’s got a lot of the same intensity, frantic energy in the music, and the same sarcastic sense of humor. I think these are the fastest songs we’ve done since those albums,” so says founding member and principal songwriter Aaron Barrett, “We’re finally just doing what Reel Big Fish does best, and that’s what we did on those first two albums.”
Now, that could be taken a little the wrong way; writing off their discography since then, trying to perhaps recapture former glory, living in the past. I’ll be honest, there’s a little bit of that. There are moments that sound overly familiar, or ‘fresh’ from the tail end of the 90s. That’s the thing about ska though, and punk for that matter, they have their sound and they’re sticking to it. Reliving their youth or not, there was a strong possibility of some sameyness.
What the key point to note is, that they have actually managed to recapture that youthful energy. Past glory, that’s another story, but that energy and bite, definitely. Opener Everyone Else is an Asshole displays this straight away, boasting woahs, staccato brass and some genuine punk pace. Add into that some contrarily snarky and bitter lyrics by way of genuinely catch vocals, this could sit so easily aside Sell Out.
Some tracks stand out more than others; the bittersweet though catchy as Hell She’s Not the End of the World, the almost college rock bitter break up song I Know You Too Well to Like You Anymore, the standoffishly Summery I Dare You To Break My Heart, the essentially instrumental classic ska and two tone referencing Don’t Stop Skankin’ that sounds like Madness and signs off with a nod to The Specials and then the riff driven PS I Hate You.
As said, there are more than a few intentional or unintentional nods to the past, the faint whiff of familiarity, some songs just don’t hit home and there’s a concern these boys are consciously trying sound like and relive their first two albums. In other genres that could be a real problem, but whether it’s the case or not here doesn’t matter.
This isn’t the deepest meaning of genres, no, what it is though is fun. It’s that party animal you love to invite barbecues, because they just get better when they’re around. That’s what ska-punk is, and for that this album does its job. It’s fun, and what more could you ask for? So quit bitching, pull on your board shorts, grab a beer and get outside. It’s Summer.