With the release of their 1997 hit "Sell Out," Reel Big Fish propelled themselves to the forefront of third-wave ska and never looked back. Along with bands like Mustard Plug, they embodied a solid punk aesthetic and a polished ska sound, and have, over the course of seven studio albums (minus a few stumbles - like with 2002's Cheer Up) maintained a relevance long after many have debated ska's demise. With biting sarcasm and healthy dose of self-loathing humor, the band has been consistently entertaining, with a schtick that always feels fresh.
Entering the era of 2012's release, Candy Coated Fury, the band has managed to maintain this energy. And despite frontman Aaron Barrett being the only original member of the band, they have managed a cohesive feeling that places this record in the canon of their best releases, with all the elements that the band has had since day one still present, no matter who is in the band.
Most notably absent is the band's longtime trumpet player and backup vocalist Scott Klopfenstein, who has always been a solid part of the band's live act (check out 2006's Our Live Album Is Better Than Your Live Album for more of his additions to the live set). He left last year to focus on his family, but even Scotty's removal has done little to dampen the band's classic energy.
The opening track, "Everyone Else is an Asshole," is classic Reel Big Fish, with each item - the humor, the big ska sound, the broad horns, the singalong quality - that Reel Big Fish has honed into their classic trademark sounds. It's a solid opener, setting a tone for the band that shows that this record is set to sit on top of a list of their best releases.
And from there? More of the same. But to say it's formulaic is to not give it enough credit. Rather, it's trademark.
Present are the classic breakup songs like "She's Not The End Of The World" and "I Know You Too Well to Like You Anymore," big catchy tunes that bring a smirk to your face because you can relate and be entertained. "Your Girlfriend Sucks" is insanely catchy and awesomely hilarious, as are the self explanatory tracks "I Love You Suck" and "P.S. I Hate You," biting examinations of relationships that are too upbeat to be downers.
There are slight departures that are refreshing without sounding too abrupt, like the more reggae-focused "Don't Let Me Down Gently" and "Hiding In My Headphones," which has real big groove, as well as a Reel Big groove, and "Don't Stop Skankin'," which pays serious tribute to classic two-tone bands with a serious retro sound.
The record wraps up with a smooth cover of When In Rome's classic "The Promise," with a reggae beat and horns that simply smoke with coolness. It's a classy close to a serious record.
And the band, despite all the joking around, is all about class. Not very long before the release of this record, the band was playing in Colorado on the night of the Aurora Theater Shooting. In the wake of the tragic events, they announced they would donate all proceeds from their Aspen show to a victim's charity. It's a show of support for people that shows that the band who loves to sing about messy breakups and painful relationships knows more than a little about pure goodness as well.
Granted, Candy Coated Fury is nothing new, and if you're looking for a departure from Reel Big Fish's best works, you're not going to find it. Then again, this is exactly what the band was going for. On the band's site, Barrett himself said of the record:
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. We’re finally just doing what Reel Big Fish does best, and that’s what we did on those first two albums.
Those two records were classic soundtracks from the time they were released, and Candy Coated Fury is ready to do the same. It's just as good as those albums, and quite cohesive in energy, feel, and addictive qualities. Turn it on, turn it up and prepare to bask in the sarcastic ska fun.
Release date - July 31, 2012