With a new album released this past year (We’re Not Happy ‘Til You’re Not Happy), I decided to read some reviews about the legends of third wave ska-punk, Reel Big Fish (RBF from here on in). Disgusted to see the lack of a review for Turn The Radio Off, arguably RBF’s best album, I decided to submit one of my very own. I decided to write individual reviews of the highlight songs from the 15-track album because I’m lazy. (Tongue-poking-out smiley goes here.)
First, don’t get me wrong, I am still very new to ska music. With only 8 ska-punk albums to my collection, I am far from an expert on this very old and very varied genre. From the shores of Australia, I believe my country was reasonably untouched by the late 90’s ska explosion into the mainstream. But don’t quote me on that; I was only about 10 years old during this time and was probably too worried with whatever else was happening. (I remember hearing the Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “Impression That I Get” on the radio however. Great song! So catchy!)
Turn The Radio Off immediately gives listeners a kick in the behind with the first song. “Sell Out,” the first track, is a very upbeat guitar and horn-driven number with an undeniably catchy, toe-tapping chorus that gives first timers a very good summary of the band’s sound. This track, at almost four minutes long, leads nicely into “Trendy,” a shorter song that perfectly suited to be played at a house party, with a singalong chorus and some great brass work.
A song many of us may have heard on the hilarious film "Baseketball" comes in at number six. Probably everyone’s favourite RBF song, the distinctive “Beer,” is a great guitar-driven song with some very catchy bass guitar work and surprisingly little trumpet and trombone, making it more of a punk than ska song (also, the upstroke guitaring is absent and replaced with very funky stuff that isn’t really heard of on this album). The multi-talented Scott even gets the keyboard happening! Overall, “Beer” is a really fun track worthy of its reputation. The very next track, “241,” is an almost entirely instrumental one that shows off the talent of all the musicians and shows just how well their sound blends together.
“Skatanic,” song number 10, is a very sinister, downbeat song with Aaron Barrett’s usually very happy voice being quite the opposite, making this song a powerful track. The chorus is quite alarming; while softened screams of “Fuck you bitch, I love you” and “I’m not crazy” make the song very unique on the album. The very driving trumpets through the verses also add other elements to the already unusual track.
“All I Want Is More” is another great song that brings the mood straight back to the upbeat style that RBF pulls off so nicely, as does the following song “Nothing,” that sports some very cool bass work and singalong moments of “I don’t fuckin’ care anymore.”
“Alternative, Baby,” the last song on the album, closes the curtains on the album on an upbeat note perfectly, mostly thanks to the excellent vocals of Barrett and great participation from all the horn players who are so essential to RBF’s trademark horn-driven sound.
Reel Big Fish are generally accepted as not being the most serious of bands. In fact, you would think it would be impossible when you play such an upbeat, catchy and glorious style of music, as these gentlemen do so well. Even if you love or hate ska, there is no denying the fact that RBF are one helluva fine-tuned ska-punk-pop band. This album, Turn The Radio Off, is RBF at their finest and boasts some of RBF’s biggest fan favourites. TTRO is a great first step for punk fans who want to explore this fun and inspirational band or for ska dudes who like their music upbeat.