Reel Big Fish – Candy Coated Fury (2012)

Posted: July 10, 2012 in Music
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Could someone – anyone – please give Aaron Barrett a hug? As one of the most iconic lead singers in music (and ska-punk’s resident class clown), Barrett and his band has made us laugh, cry, mosh and guzzle our way through the last twenty-plus years. But it seems the joke may now be on him.

Reel Big Fish is set to release their latest album Candy Coated Fury later this month, and it’s safe to say that Aaron has seen better days in his personal life.

Sure – he’s joked with us in the past about bad girlfriends, bad record deals and bad music, but it seems like the poor boy is a little heartbroken and just can’t seem to get over it. He’s always had a penchant for sharing bits and pieces of his experiences in life through many of the songs over the band’s illustrious eight-album career, but this time around, things seem much more dire, more sad and incredibly desperate.

And it’s more hilarious than ever.

The album starts out innocently enough with the mandatory tongue-in-cheek anthem “Everyone Else Is An Asshole” – which is RBF at its absolute best. Grand horns, get-off-your-ass danceability and the energy that makes you feel like you’re at your first Warped Tour (now celebrating their 17th summer of madness). It’s a confession of sorts that even being a nice guy sucks – and that everyone else is pretty much just that – an asshole.

“Punisher” is a familiar ode to the bad relationship. Face value, it can be taken along the same lines as “Everything Sucks” or “Somebody Hates Me,” but trust me, it is the opening opus to a trail of tears that gets more miserable and fantastic as the album progresses. Take “She’s Not The End Of The World,” for example. Again with the skankin’ and horns and tasty riffs, it feels – on the surface – like a typical Reel Big Fish track. But alas, deep in the underbelly of ska-tastic shit is – well – more shit. Whoever broke Aaron’s heart needs to be kicked square in the vagina, as I can almost taste his tears below the fabulous music. Even “Don’t Let Me Down Gently” makes you feel bad for our brother-by-trumpet, with its depressive message of apathy and helplessness.

The concept comes to a head with the album’s first single, “I Know You Too Well To Like You Anymore” – which is the best break up song you could ever play for your Bon Jovi lovin’ girlfriend, but our friend takes verbal shots like a champ, being called everything from a “bad idea” to a “needle dick.”

So what do you do after such a blatant attack of your manhood? Like most of us with an iPhone (or those dreaded Dr. Dre. thingies), you pick up those white little wonders and get to “Hiding In My Headphones.” The track features some excellent unnamed dancehall side vocals, and by featuring them, the band accentuates the point that they really can hide themselves from themselves.

Any man down on his luck has the sack to stand up and be proud, and the musical journey takes us there with the next track – “I Dare You To Break My Heart.” A nice, smooth ska vibe infects the track of self-empowerment and confidence- but confidence is a wavering trait. When you can’t be confident in your life, the best recipe is fucking with your friend’s lives (who are always WAY more shitty than yours), as is presented in the first non-self-loathing track on the disc: “Your Girlfriend Sucks.” Hilarity ensues once again as Barrett deflects the attention away from his butt-hurtedness, and dials in the old tried-and-true of slamming someone else’s girlfriend. Granted, the topic is as easy as stealing candy from a retarded kid, but somehow he keeps it funny and fresh.

A pleasant break from all the Oprah-show-collapse-of-a-man storyline is “Don’t Stop Skankin” which borrows from The Specials’ classic ska anthem “A Message To Rudy” (which was probably borrowed before from someone else) and is a mindful slap in the face as to where all this great music came from. Madness, The English Beat, Less Than Jake, and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones all owe their success to the early ska greats, and you don’t have to go any further back to the Specials to get a nice swig of true old-school rankin’ raucous.

“Famous Last Words” is almost an apology of sorts, as Barrett shows his obvious regret to his failings, yet realizes it’s too late to change the past. It’s a mid-tempoed, margarita-slurping, island-tinged groove that is as easy as walking out the door, but the story doesn’t end that easily.

Barrett confesses his misgivings with “Lost Cause,” – admitting everything and defending nothing – and doing the least punk thing possible: showing his feelings and trying to save the ship from sinking to the bottom of the ocean. It has good pop sensibility and great lyrics, and if you don’t buy the album (shame on you), this will be the song you hear on the radio that might convince you otherwise.

Our mighty hero hasn’t quite given up yet, though – as is evident with “I Love/You Suck.” Barrett knee-locks the jump that gets his testicles out of his cavity and swaggers around as the man who wears his sideburns with pride. He’s fighting back with punky guitar riffs and trumpet solos and taking back what is his. “I know you don’t care for me” wails from the speakers – and you feel like the good guy just might win here.

A fitting conclusion to the tale – “P.S. I Hate You” – is the journal entry at the end of it all. Guys don’t keep diaries, but Anne Frank would have been proud of the story behind this tale – and it culminates with Aaron ending up where most of us do – alone and (probably) drunk. The track itself is one of the funnest rides on this rollercoaster, and Reel Big Fish sound as awesome as ever. When you write great music, you can spend an hour being bitter and jaded – but fans – like myself – will still appreciate it.

If you don’t take it all as seriously as I have (which is probably FAR too serious), this is a great album through and through for a band that continuously adds to their legacy as THE ska/punk/rock of our generation. If you do take it seriously, and if you see our buddy (or even someone who smells remotely like him) – give him a hug and let him know that he’ll be okay. After all, not EVERYTHING sucks…

9.5/10

Tracklist:
01 – Everyone Else is an Asshole
02 – Punisher
03 – She’s Not the End of the World
04 – Don’t Let Me Down Gently
05 – I Know You Too Well To Like You Anymore
06 – Hiding in My Headphones
07 – I Dare You to Break My Heart
08 – Your Girlfriend Sucks
09 – Don’t Stop Skankin’
10 – Famous Last Words
11 – Lost Cause
12 – I Love/You Suck
13 – P.S. I Hate You
14 – The Promise

Buy at Amazon

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