Review Summary: Reel Big Fish go rock and roll
When Reel Big Fish initially released Cheer Up!
in 2002, fans were disappointed that they hadn’t reproduced the greatness they achieved with the 1998 effort Why Do They Rock So Hard"
because they saw Cheer Up!
lean towards a more rock based sound then their ska roots. After years of neglecting this album I came back to it, and as per usual with Reel Big Fish, was pleasantly surprised.
Mainly Reel Big Fish are seen as a bunch of jokers seeing that they seem to make the most depressing of topics sound like they are some of the most happiest of times since the music is arranged very upbeat with a refreshing sound. Cheer Up!
showcases this perfectly. The album kicks off with the energetic ‘Good Thing,’ this is an incredibly fun song, being quite upbeat and shows off the horn section with their ability to play around the main melody with some fantastic writing, which in all makes for an incredible party song. As the album wares on Reel Big Fish continue to please with great Ska/Rock tunes and never show signs of slowing down. There are many tracks that stand out from this album, with each and every track impressing to varying degrees.
One noticeable thing about Cheer Up!
is that the band has decided to make it a lot less ska based. While the horn section is still involved, it takes for a more straight rock approach than any of their previous albums and the ska elements on Cheer Up!
are played down a lot more and kept to a bare minimum and only evolve on certain tracks. This is evident in the track, ‘Where Have You Been"’ which doesn’t include the horn section what so ever. This track leaves the Ska sound that Reel Big Fish had on all previous albums, even though it is one of the most outstanding tracks on the album. Another fantastic track is, ‘Dateless Losers’ which has a much better mix of the old Reel Big Fish then the aforementioned ‘Where Have You been",’ it is executed perfectly, with everything from the horns to the drums blending perfectly. While Reel Big Fish may have strayed away from the ska roots in ‘Where Have You Been"’ they go straight back to form with ‘Suckers.’ As ska as you can get, this song makes you want to tap your toes and sing at the top of your lungs.
As always on a Reel Big Fish album there is a cover or two. One of them being Sublime’s ‘Boss DJ’ and Frank Sinatra’s ‘New York, New York.’ While as Reel Big Fish, Sublime are a ska band, the noting of a Frank Sinatra tune definitely made me look twice. Reel Big Fish are able to make ‘Boss DJ’ there own with a slightly more humorous twist on the song, so to speak. Then Reel Big Fish take a completely unexpected turn with ‘New York, New York.’ Believe it or not it’s an a cappella version. While probably not the best arrangement of the piece, it is certainly a valiant effort and a very fun listen.
One of the more memorable moments of the album is the ballad, ‘Drunk Again.’ This is a feature piece for the all singing/trumpet/guitar/piano playing Scott Klopfenstein. While once again the sound of the piece is quite happy, it is a very sorrowful song lyrically.
” If I had a dollar bill for every time I’ve been wrong
I’d be a self-made millionaire and you’d still be gone
So hand me down my best dress shoes and my best dress shirt
Cause I’m going out in style to cover the hurt”
may not be Reel Big Fish’s finest album, but it's definitely one of their most fun and entertaining. It goes from straight up rock, reggae, funk and then to the norm of ska. In an attempt at branching out to become more accessible and mainstream, Cheer Up!
does a damn god job.