Before going into detail about the new double live album and DVD, I'd like to address the one thing everyone keeps bringing up: Yes, Reel Big Fish did release another live DVD just shy of three years ago, with only one album in between. With that said, I have to admit there was no vital necessity for another at this point, but Our Live Album Is Better Than Your Live Album is, by all accounts, a much more extensive collection and better in almost every way. The focus is actually on the double, live CD collection, which just happens to have a feature-length live DVD with plenty of extra content that could have easily stood on its own, but I'll get more into that later.
The circumstances around this live collection should be noted, as Reel Big Fish just parted ways with the label they've hated for so long: Jive. In a sense, this was a way for the band to take back ownership of their songs, and fix things they didn't like with the original recordings. In addition, for whatever reason, some members were ousted or quit the band, and they (Aaron, Scott, etc.) seem really happy with the new guys. Furthermore, apparently the band wasn't happy with the Kung Fu DVD in the way it was shot and recorded, so with a new director like Jonathan London (who did their "Don't Start a Band" music video) and a string of shows to record, it was another chance to correct the problems they felt plagued the first DVD. Again, this doesn't necessarily justify the move in terms of what fans are going to think of the decision, but from the perspective of the band, they had a number of good reasons to do this.
The packaging of the collection makes comment on the great sound quality of it all. The live albums do, indeed, sound great, bringing through a clear sound while still including the live feel with included crowd noise. If you watch the extra features and listen to the commentaries (two of them) on the DVD, you'll realize how much work went into making this sound great, between the overdubbing, and the clipping of the banter and song parts from multiple shows, to put something fun together, like the track containing the various versions of "S.R."
The two live CDs contain 35 tracks, only a few of which are throwaway banter tracks. For the most part, this is a great collection of fan favorites, with a few covers and other oddities added to the mix. Basically, if you don't own any Reel Big Fish stuff already, it's the perfect collection for a first-time fan to pick up. Conversely, if you are a huge fan, you'll still find this collection entertaining and there are a few tracks you might not have from elsewhere or can't get anywhere else, like "So Much for Rock and Roll," which was cut from the last album for an arguably good reason, but it's not terrible, and again, it's just something that adds to the already amazing collection.
The cinematography of the DVD is both good and bad. Contrary to the Show Must Go Off! DVD, it's not a few stationary cameras zooming in and out. There is a lot of movement and quick cuts, making it more exciting and making the viewer feel closer to the show. However, by the end, I realized it was a bit overdone. It was almost as if all the cameramen were random fans who were just handed cameras and went frantic with them for a couple hours, forcing the director to have to make a lot of quick cuts to salvage the few good seconds from each shot. There are a few great shots pulled out of the footage, such as one that zooms to the face from the bell of a horn during a perfect point in the song, but overall, the camerawork has the ability to give more sensitive viewers motion sickness, something that's actually alluded to on the commentary. The venue chosen also seemed less than exciting, which contrasts the otherwise great performance. In addition, there are a few points where camera cuts should have been made on parts that were obviously overdubbed. As they stand, they call extra attention to the mistakes and corrections. At least Reel Big Fish has a good sense of humor about these spots in the commentary.
Again, the DVD just adds to the collection, with a cover of Operation Ivy's "Unity" featuring Ali Tabatabaee of Zebrahead. Rachel Minton of Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer lends her stage presence and vocals to "She Has a Girlfriend Now." The special features are fairly extensive, while some have more value than others. As previously mentioned, there are two commentary tracks, which I was surprised to find featured basically all of the same members, with the addition of the band's manager on one. I was even more surprised to find, though, that aside from the band's trademark sense of humor, there is actually a wealth of quality information about the band and the tracks on both commentaries.
As stated, the collection has a few small problems, but all in all it's forgivable, because there is just so much content packed onto this set for a mere $20. If you're a longtime fan of the band, there's a bit more of a choice here, but I would say it's still worth the price and you'll get your money's worth out of it. If you're just finding Reel Big Fish, Our Live Album Is Better Than Your Live Album is a great way to get started.
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