Review Summary: In which The Aquabats’ childish playfulness threatens to overtake them.
After 5 long years, a slight personnel change, being dropped from their label, and being picked up by a different one, the world’s greatest band of crime-fighting superheroes has finally returned with their fifth studio album Hi-Five Soup!
With The Aquabats’ surprising transition from ska to Devo-influenced new wave on their last album Charge!!
, as well as the replacement of longtime guitarist Chainsaw with metal shredder Eagle “Bones” Falconhawk, the sound of this album release could have turned out to be just about anything. So what do we end up getting? For the most part, material that’s pretty similar to the stuff on Charge!!
. The keyboard remains as integral to the band’s sound as last time around, and barring a single instance of glorious face-melting on “The Legend is True!”, the guitar work is shockingly similar to the rest of the The Aquabats’ material.
What is apparent is that the band is easily more kid-oriented than they’ve ever been. The Aquabats have constantly walked the line between family-friendliness and serious statements; underneath the tales of Martian girls, giant robots, and mechanical apes, there’s always been an element of social commentary as well as moments of sincere emotion. Not so on this album; here, the songs are entirely literal – “Poppin’ a Wheelie!” is about popping wheelies, “Food Fight on the Moon!” is about a food fight on the moon, and so on. It’s easy to see where all of this came from; Christian Jacobs, singer and founding member of The Aquabats, is also co-writer and director of popular pre-school show Yo Gabba Gabba!, and it’s all-too evident how that experience has bled into the band’s sound.
Luckily, this tone tends to work pretty well, giving the album a really hilarious energy that’s oftentimes just plain infectious. Songs like “The Shark Fighter!” and “Luck Dragon Lady!” are ridiculously over-the-top, and some of them are actually kind of heartwarming in their simplicity, like “Hey Homies!”, an ode to giving your friends a big ol’ hug. That being said, there are definitely a few instances of The Aquabats’ enthusiasm threatening to overtake them; the synth-pop/ska sound of “B.F.F.!” complete with explicit auto-tune, isn’t funny enough to warrant its obnoxiousness, and “All My Money!” just doesn’t really go anywhere. Thankfully, these points are few and far between, and most of the album works pretty well, so long as you have the stomach for this sort of super-sugary, synth-pop-punk.
And that’s really the thing with Hi-Five Soup!
: it’s bound to be a polarizing album, but there’s so much glee and playfulness on it that it’s tough to be entirely objective towards it. I know, for example, that “Radio Down!” is by all the counts a terrible song, but The Aquabats sell it with such joy and conviction that when you’re stuck in the throes of the album’s childish worldview, it’s difficult not to get a kick out of it. So really, it’s an album for fans of The Aquabats; it’s one of their worst albums, it’s a terrible introduction to their strange, strange world, and it’s definitely an acquired taste, but for listeners with a keen sense of humour and a love for over-the-top shenanigans, it’s surely worth a look.