Hoobastank isn't what most people see them as: a generic top 40 rock outfit from the same general location as Incubus, P.O.D., and the whole plethora of bands from the Calabasas area. Aside from their location of establishment, the self-titled "debut" is in fact, their SOPHOMORE effort. Enter "Basketball Shorts", or rather the unabridged name "They Sure Don't Make Basketball Shorts Like They Used To".
This is before the name change of the band, initiated by Island Records upon signing, as they once were "Hoobustank". Alongside with the name, their style was different from what they are known for now. They had a saxophone player at the time of this record, handled by Jeremy Wasser (also featured on Incubus "Summer Romance (Anti-Gravity Love Song)" from the S.C.I.E.N.C.E. album.) With Wasser in tow, the band boasted a ska-tinged attitude throughout most of the out-of-print debut. A look at the tracks gives a better idea of the true debut effort.
1. Earthsick (3:50) - The CD starts off with some faux metal chugging, until the synth-pedal bass and saxophone kick in, accompanied by some ska-influnced guitar. However, the song shifts from metal-ska-metal-rock, in a very unique way that makes one wonder why this CD has not been reprinted. The vocal delivery here is quite good as well, making this an excellent beginning to the cd. Rating: 4.5/5
2. Foot In Your Mouth (3:04) - Very ska-like intro, but turns into a rather cliche rock song about thinking before speaking. Hoobastank does a decent job with this song, but the saxophone at times does make for an awkward situation sometimes, as it's quite odd during the power chord chugging. Anyways, a solid track nonetheless. Rating: 3.5/5
3. Karma Patrol (3:38) – Very different track from Hoobastank. This is one of the brighter spots of the usage of Wasser, as his saxophone is used to emphasize certain areas of the songs, and surprisingly, it makes Dan Estrin’s riffs sound heavier. The song however, is not very coherent. It’s a song about…well, karma. The song’s tone moves from happy-go-lucky to serious in such a way it’s hard to tell if the song was meant to make sense at all. Rating: 2.5/5
4. Stuck Without A Voice (3:32) – Think vice versa of what has just been said about the last track, in terms of coherent tone. Hoobastank nails it down here, with a very solid level of focus, in a song about feeling helpless and wanting to do something about it. It’s a very solid song, and hints towards their future direction. Rating: 4/5
5. Can I Buy You A Drink (3:55) – Addicting. That’s the best way to describe this track. It almost feels like a song that the Cantina band on Star Wars would play. A song about trying to pick up/score with a woman, definitely fits the bill of band who actually wrote a song about cunnilingus.(“Viva La Beava") Aside from the meaning, the song has a steady flowing beat, with a chorus that begs to be sung. Rating: 4/5
6. Naked Jock Man (3:26) – Yeah, that’s right. Naked. Jock. Man. By FAR the zaniest song in recent memory. The song’s structure leads to hilarity, with the ever-ominous main riff, down to the breakdown where it almost sounds like they’re being serious. However, it’s Naked Jock Man. Nuff’ said. A refreshing break from the norm here, and that’s good. Rating: 3.5/5
7. Our Song (4:03) – The “slow" song here on Basketball Shorts, and it’s alright. The saxophone here leads the way in the chorus, paving a way for Doug Robb’s vocals to pierce through. Definitely a sign of thing to come here, varying from the light-heartedness for a surprise (at least back then) track that threatens to be a sleeper track on the cd. Rating: 4.5/5
8. The Mirror (3:42) – Pretty good song here, another highlight of the former member Jeremy Wasser, as the saxophone drives the song forward in a way where the current band would be hard-pressed to do. They have a very well-structured bridge, that leads into the final chorus. The outro here really makes no sense whatsoever with the song, it leaves you hanging, wondering why? Rating: 3.5/5
9. Educated Fool (3:50) – This song is messed up. Think of a 70’s funk track. The song has great musical moments, but honestly, it’s almost too zany to pay attention to for too long, which is a major detraction. The music boasts more hilarity than the lyrics here, by the off-the-wall shifts. It’s alright, but definitely one of the weakest tracks overall on the album. Rating: 3/5
10. The Dance That Broke My Jaw (4:10) – This is the song that drips ska, like a wet towel. Hands down the best song on the cd in my opinion, the reason being from the energy that doesn’t lose it’s intensity. How could a song about jocks messing up a dance be the gem of a cd? That my friends, is the anomaly of pre-Island records Hoobastank. A great finale. Hilarity ensues. Rating: 5/5