Reel Big Fish are a great live band. They are fun to watch, they get the audience involved, their songs are easy to sing along to and fun to dance and in some cases, mosh to. They are a great band and they know it. This is shown by the confidence they display right from the start of their show with comments like "We're kicking your asses!" Instead of giving us, the fans, just one CD to show this fact; they have kindly given us 2 CD's and a DVD filled with live tracks. All their albums are well represented as the Fish fire out the 'hits' from their own career as well as assorted covers of A-Ha, Operation Ivy and The Cure. Reel Big Fish are not only a great live band, they are also a great ska/pop-punk band; so if you're looking for awesome musicianship then you're probably best off leaving this album well alone. However, if you're looking for fun, this triple-disc collection is definitely for you.
To say that this album doesn't have excellent musicianship makes it seem like Reel Big Fish are a bunch of talentless losers. That is simply untrue. Both CD's and the DVD have some great guitar solos scattered among the songs. An example of this is in the fan favourite 'Beer'
which has some nice little solos between verses to make the song more lively and exciting and the crowd go wild for it. Immediately preceeding it are 'Take On Me'
and S.R. (Many Versions Of)
. The first is a song that many will remember Reel Big Fish for even though it was originally recorded by A-Ha. This is simply because they make it their own. The synth riff sounds great being blasted out by the brass section and the verses work excellently with the typical ska style guitars on the upstroke. Closing the first disc is the many versions of 'Suburban Rhythms'
. Normally it is a fairly boring song about the break up of a band. It is enjoyable and easy to sing to but has only 4 lines and lasts under a minute. However, this leaves a lot of room to improvise around it and on this
album we hear it played in the styles of: reggae, country, death metal, punk rock and 'emo' (apparently). All of this is hilarious to listen to if not for the banter between each variation, but for the vocal stylings done on each variation. This track is a great oppurtunity for frontman Aaron Barrett to get animated with his voice and he makes full use of it. This is something that stands out on the whole album-he has a great voice. Whereas some vocalists voices waver throughout a live show his remains solid. There are no bad songs on disc one, there are some mediocre ones but for every time that this happens there is another great song to make up for it. For example a fairly average song like 'She's Famous Now'
, which is about a girlfriend leaving someone because she has gained lots of fame suddenly (Aaron claims it is about Gwen Stefani-he wishes) is preceeded by the excellent 'Ban The Tube Top'
which sounds even better than on a studio recording and is received rapturously.
Disc Two starts with an 80's cover ("A ska cover of an 80's song-how original") in the form of ’Kiss Me Deadly’
which is thoroughably enjoyable for both us the listener at home and the kids at the show who pick up the lyrics quickly due to it's simplicity. After a 'song' made up on the spot about ’The 90's’
is another hit- 'She Has A Girlfriend Now'
. The theme of being unlucky in love is common to a lot of Reel Big Fish songs, and it is always fun to listen to bitter lyrics being sung over very happy music. Although most songs on the album are similar, in that they are fast and in the ska-punk style, occasionally there is a more laid back, more traditional ska
song, and 'A Little Doubt Goes a Long Way'
is a great example of this as it keeps a steady pace throughout unlike most of the songs here. It is a relaxing break from the speedy ska, but chances are if you go to see Reel Big Fish you are expecting and/or wanting to hear fast, fist-pumping ska. This is provided by 'Turn The Radio Off'
and dynamics are used very well to make the transition from breakdown to chorus even more exciting. It is followed by the more subdued, melancholy even 'Where Have You Been?'
which on this live recording has it's length doubled due to it's calmig breakdown being extended. It creates a very jazzy feel with it's basswork and less-is-more approach. Aaron encourages the crowd to "Close your eyes and feel the magic" before yelling angrily "I CAN SEE YOUR EYES OPEN!" with tongue firmly in cheek. The banter accompanying the tracks on this album is all funny, often self-depreciating, tongue-in-cheek humour; and this makes for a very good live show as when you're not dancing or moshing along you're laughing. Predictably they close with their "big hit from the 90's"- 'Sell Out'
which receives the loudest cheers out of all the songs on the album and is played with great energy that is common to all the songs here.
Although 2 CD's and a DVD for only £18 is undeniably great value for money, the vast quantity of live material is also a downside to this album. There is little variation from the fast ska-punk template. Aside from the odd slower (or at least less energetic) song, most of the tracks will sound the same to the casual listener. However, what matters is that this is a fun, enjoyable album. The album is called Our Live album Is Better Than Your Live Album
this is certainly true here as it is definitely better than most live albums. This is because RBF are all about having a good time and this live album certainly displays that attitude.