Friday, December 07, 2007

FDF Volume 1: Issue 78: Reel Big Fish - Turn the Radio Off

Album - Turn the Radio Off
Artist - Reel Big Fish
Key Players - Aaron Barrett - vocals and lead guitar, Grant Barry - trombone, Andrew Gonzales - drums, Scott Klopfenstein - trumpet and vocals, Dan Regan - trombone, Tavis Werts - trumpet, Matt Wong - bass.
Produced By - Jay Rifkin and John Avila

Release Date - Fall of 1996

What caused me to blow off the dust? - For about a year I could not get enough of ska, or ska-core or what have you. It feels like it has been ages since I listened to more than just a song as it comes up on shuffle on the iPod, so it was time.

Overview - This was the bands major label debut and second release overall. One half of this album is re-recorded versions for the bands earlier output.
The band would gain some success with the lead off track "Sell Out" and tour conistently. The fan base grew as the third wave of ska music took hold and the band would play festivals like the Vans Warped Tour to ravenous crowds. The band has suffered a revolving door of members over the years and musical tastes have changed, but the band soilders on. In 2007 the band released a new studio album Monkeys for Nothin' and the Chimps For Free and are currently on tour.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - Crashing out of the gates you are served up pretty much what you'll get through out with "Sell Out". It is easy to see why this was the lead off single. The guitar has a sharp bite, while the bass and drums firmly hold down the backbeat. The horns will swell, burst a few notes at a time, or be held for a few bars. A song that sets the tone, and should tell the listener right away if this is for them. The horns really get a work out on "Trendy". After the first verse the horns come in, HARD. Its hard to sit still when a band has this much going on (all a positive). By the chorus in a live setting the audience would bounce in unison. Wong really shines holding the chaos in order a late song break down only swells one last time for the chorus. "Join the Club" begins with some vocal tricks with the audio very low and semi distored. After a short verse the band comes up with a more standard ska feel. It remains a solid back before the horns get going before the start of the first verse. It breaks down to a saxaphone solo before it gets rolling once more. Adding a female voice (Monique Powell of Save Ferris) to
"She Has a Girlfriend Now" adds a nice flavor to the song. A song about how a girlfriend now has a girlfriend. Towards the end Ward says what he'd do to save the love inlcuding shaving his armpits and wearing a bra. The final chorus has the horns really firing. An almost marching band like intro with the big notes opens "Snoop Dog, Baby" - an ode to Snoop Dog of course. A little slower over all on this track and is placed almost as "breather" at this point in the album. It does get going as it progresses though. The simple and catchy "Beer" comes up next. Why no beer company to this day (that I can tell) hasn't latched on to this song. Its simple, lyrics (perhaps too touchy) do have a simple line "I think I'll grab myself a beer!". Once again, Wong is the unsung hero on the track. The horns, guitar and drums are all way up in the mix and drive it forward, but Wong is tight as ever. "241" follows. Its primarily an instrumental only broken up by the words "TWO FOUR ONE!" (the song is actually 2 minutes 41 seconds as well..coincidence?). It allows the trumpet work of Klopfenstein to shine. With clicks off the bass drum the wonderfly catchy "Everything Sucks" follows (see the download and tell me I am wrong). Gonzales has the turn to shine here keeping the pace. The fun "oohs" under the verse and just singing "Everything Sucks". The horns that lead to to the chorus kick proverbial ass....a classic if you will. "S.R." doesn't even clock in at a 90 seconds long. The drums have the crisp thwack they have had all long and the horns are as tight as ever, its just over so quick. One of the weaker tracks "Skatanic" follows. Musically its the same but there is a whole section that involves "growl singing" and it honestly is a turn off. Some may dig it, but more often than not this is a skippable track. The band quickly saves themselves with the very catch, and bass lead "All I Want Is More". Slide trombone and chipper horns break way to the crunchy guitar and drums. "Nothin'" keeps steers the boat right along. The final verse/chorus is a chatoic sing along of "I don't F**king care anymore". It eases up some with "Say 'Ten'", a little more bouncy safe song. The bass slaps down and the drums click off with a smooth saxaphone line to kick off "I'll Never Be", one of the real hidden gems on the cd. It gets cooking musically, then as the first verse is sung it sort of "mellows out" some with Wong's bass work leading the rush. The real fun part of this song is the chorus. The long held notes from the horn section as the vocals are pushed. We hardly slow down as "Alternative, Baby" gets rolling. The horn section is very tight and always held up live and once more the chorus (once you know the lyrics) is an instant sing along don't you wanna be my friend!!! and the breakdown of slap bass and horns lead into a great trumpet solo, screetching guitar brings it all should be dancing by now..really. That pretty much wraps up the record barring a "hidden" track which is rough acoustic rendition of the song "I'm Cool" which was on the first album. It is rough, but die hards might like to hear the early process of a songs development.

Where are they now? - Matt Wong, a fan favorite, left the band to spend more time with his wife and newborn child in June of 2007 shortly before the new album was released. Andrew Gonzales left the band after a few albums to spend more time with his family. Grant Barry was fired from the band in 1998, one rumored reason is that he struck a security guard at a show, but the band had said it was personal reasons. Tavis left the band mostly due to differences with Barrett. He decided to go back to school. Dan Regan, Scott Klopfenstein and Aaron Barrett are still working/touring/recording in Reel Big Fish

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - The first time was at the Middle East Downstairs in the winter of 96 or early part of 97 (I don't have my ticketstub) and Reel Big Fish was actually opening for the band Goldfinger. The second time was September 26, 1997 at Lupos in Providence. I went with a few like minded fans and we had such a rip roaring good time. We didn't stop moving (and neither did the rest of the place, it was a sweatbox of fun). A year later, almost to the day (Sept 28, 1998) we did it all over again. The band used to do fun covers and at these Lupos shows we got a great cover version of "Take on Me" by A-Ha and the other a great fun/different version of "Hungry Like the Wolf" from Duran Duran (see download won't cha?) The last few years I have had intentions of seeing them, but they seem to be on a festival circut (cut to a 30 minute set?) or playing with 4 or more bands at a time. The live show was so much fun I honestly would love to do it again.

FDF Overall Take - Fans of ska music in general are a fussy bunch, no more than fans of other genres of music but they'd be quick to point out this not punk, or ska or what have you. Overall its fun listen. It might not be something one can play every day, but for a while this was in constant rotation. Sometimes the sublte things make an album stand out for you. For example when I listened to this to do the write up I found myself singing the horn parts, or quickly recalling "I loved this bridge/break down"

The band's official site.
The band on myspace

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

***MP3's REMOVED JANUARY 11,2008***
Sell Out
She Has A Girlfriend Now
Everything Sucks
I'll Never Be
Alternative Baby

You can buy the cd here

Special Bonus download

Reel Big Fish doing "Hungry Like the Wolf" from Duran Duran.
Hungry Like the Wolf (Removed)

You can buy the whole cd here

Just a heads up!
If you linked to this site, or were directed right to this post, check out the Main Page for this site and you can see and get the last few weeks worth of FDF mp3's.

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.


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