This is definitely an album that Reel Big Fish fans have been waiting for. Their first full-length original release since their emancipation from a major label (they’ve also done a split album and last year’s stellar live record Our Live Album Is Better Than Your Live Album), this album carried with it a definite buzz, a hope that this newly found creative freedom would bring with an outpouring of stellar tunes delivered with the self-deprecating yet sophisticated humor of the band in its earliest days.
The Fish did not disappoint.
Monkeys for Nothin’ and the Chimps for Free is everything a Reel Big Fish album should be. It contains tight horn sections dropped on punk riffs, delivered with sharply barbed wit and sarcasm that’s almost (but not quite) as subtle as a jab to the kidneys of the punks who thought that third wave ska was dead and buried.
The album’s opener, “Party Down”, seems indicative of the band’s constant attitude. With its recurring line “We just came to party down” acting like a mantra, and the songs constant descent into varying sounds from disco to death metal, it lays out the whole album in a way that says that the Fish, well, I’ll repeat them again “just came to party down.”
The beauty of Reel Big Fish is that they are one of the most entertaining, energetic and skilled ska punk bands currently playing, yet they have never seemed to take themselves seriously, going out of their way to poke fun at themselves and everything else, and seeking to make music that, if it does have a message, is a message directing the listener to have a good time.
And this album is full of feelgood ska punk. Along with “Party Down”, there’s the 60-second blast of “Another F.U. Song”, which opens with “Hey kids, it’s time to use the F Word”, and a bunch of other songs destined to become RBF classics and party mix mainstays, like “Everybody’s Drunk” (which contains both a nod to Twisted Sister and to RBF’s classic song “Beer”), the Irish-sounding “Please Don’t Tell Her I Have a Girlfriend,” and the frenzied blast “Hate You”, a trademark self-deprecating RBF anthem. There’s also a polished up revision of “Why Do All Girl’s Think They’re Fat?”, originally form 1997’s Keep Your Receipt EP.
When the band does decide to get serious and tackle an issue, they go elsewhere for the lyrics, covering Phil Collins “Another Day In Paradise”, kicking up the speed, dropping in a ska beat and adding their trademark horns. Their take is so removed from the original, it takes a few to even realize it’s a retake on a song that used to be crawling all over Top 40 radio.
Just like on last year’s Our Live Album Is Better Than Your Live Album. Reel Big Fish packaged this album with a DVD, this time a “making of” DVD. It just ices this cake a little better, and really means you should buy, rather than download the record.
It’s apparent that RBF has escaped the oppression of their last label and are ready to move on. It’s also readily apparent that as they move on, they are going to be leaving some great times in their wake.