The Aquabats - The Aquabats vs. the Floating Eye of Death! (retro review) (Cover Artwork)

The Aquabats

The Aquabats vs. the Floating Eye of Death! (retro review) (1999)

Goldenvoice records

1999 accompanied a complete reinvention of super hero ska band The Aquabats with The Aquabats! vs. The Floating Eye of Death!

The guitar and synthesizer-heavy follow-up was an extreme contrast to the upstroke guitar and ska standards found in 1997's The Fury of The Aquabats! The band would later admit that upon preparing material for a new studio album, the entire group felt narrowed in on as a "cheesy ska band" and nothing more. The 'Bat's knee-jerk remedy resulted in pop punk and new wave jams, all narrated by vocalist Christian Jacob's (MC Bat Commander's) storytelling delivery.

The album droned open with eerie noises and synthetic drum loops before cracking into heavy guitar and moog with "Sequence Erase." The Aquabats' three-part horn section was present, but blended neatly into the keys. "Giant Robot-Birdhead" was a perfect representation of the band's new motif, providing quick horn-lines and Devo-esque vocal trades, completed with a showcase of former drummer Travis Barker's replacement Gabe "Dr. Rock" Palmer. Palmer's simple approach offered a necessary backbone to Jacob's storytelling that would continue on with future (and until now still permanent) drummer Ricky Falomir, whereas Barker's "drum-fill through the entire song" style presented the group as more of a sideshow.

The experimentation would be especially drastic in Floating Eye of Death, as rocker "Anti-Matter" would connect with the new wave "Lotto Fever," and resolve in corny pop rock, carrying the honest love song in "Lovers of Loving Love." This would be a pattern throughout the album, as if the band had a checklist of genres, moods, or concepts that they wanted to take a stab at with their eight, talented members. "Chemical Bomb" was especially notable, as the surf/beach anthem bobber would offer acoustic guitar and drum brushes under a song about Armageddon. Very quickly after the release of the album, the Aquabats would never write songs as cynical or socially intelligent ever again, relying instead on hooks and more child-friendly themes.

"The Man With Glooey Hands" fired open with about as many beats-per-minute as the group were going to exceed, but was a fun, short, punk song, while "Monster's Wedding" committed over four minutes to a slow-winded spooky ballad that would fit on any campy Halloween compilation. "The Ballad of Mr. Bonkers" took the tempo even slower, introducing lounge vocals and trumpet solos, before an operatic bridge, and an ultimate six-eight rock and roll aria. "Canis Lupus" would be a high moment on the record, paying homage to the domestication of dogs in a classic new wave sing-along.

"Tiny Pants" reared Floating Eye into yet another direction, with Jacob's producing Elvis impressions over Americana and pitch shifted vocals. The funny song proceeded into swing/ska inside joke "The Thing on the Bass Amp," and "Amino Man," which handed musical credits to The Offspring's "Dexter Holland." The album would come to a close with the quite uplifting and hopeful (and not remotely joking) "Hello, Good Night." The soft song, lyrically parallel to the dark humor of "Chemical Bomb," was eerily uncomfortable at the first listen, as if a joke would be coming at any moment when the ultimate gag was that the listener just sat through a three and a half minute sweet, kiss goodnight from the Aquabats.

That is what fused the Aquabats into Y2K; proof that they were far removed from all "cheesy ska band(s)" out there. The line-up had talent, a vast knowledge of musical styles to boot, and The Aquabats! vs. The Floating Eye of Death! was the moment they dropped that knowledge on listeners. The band would quickly dwindle down to a five-piece, never looking back at the ska band fame they hoisted in 1997 and remaining active and successful to this day.