Review: Reel Big Fish – Fame, Fortune And Fornication [2009]

amazon-reel-big-fishSo-Cal ska band Reel Big Fish covers Glam Metal and Rock classics on their latest offering FAME FORTUNE AND FORNICATION. The album opens and closes with two Poison covers “Nothing But A Good Time and “Talk Dirty To Me” respectively which serves as a lame gimmick. Also featured are ska versions of Quiet Riot’s “Mama We’re All Crazy Now,” Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” and John Mellencamp’s “The Authority Song.”

Here is the track-by-track rundown:

“Nothing But A Good Time” begins with the horns acting as C.C. Deville’s guitars while the guitarist performs the typical clean ska upstrokes. It is a fun idea, however it is now an outdated one—1996 has come and gone.

“Mama We’re All Crazy Now” sounds like a high school punk band performance with its adolescent members jumping around an auditorium stage at the school talent show.

“Veronica Sawyer” is a reference to a character in the great 80’s movie Heathers, but the original song was done by fellow ska band Edna’s Goldfish which was released in 1999? How that fits into the album’s concept is beyond me.

“Authority Song” is faster paced and heavier than the original by John Mellencamp and one of the better tracks on the record.

“Brown Eyed Girl” uses the horns for the main guitar riff while the guitarist plays, you guessed it, the ska upstrokes. This version could serve as a good college happy hour jukebox tune but that is really the only positive use it exudes.

“The Long Run” is an Eagles cover that works pretty well as a ska song, if boredom is your main hobby.

“Won’t Back Down” sounds exactly how you might imagine a ska band performing it. Pearl Jam’s live version is clearly more exciting.

“Keep A Cool Head” is a Desmond Dekker cover that pays tribute to the reggae and ska legend which is really who the band should focus on honoring.

“Monkey Man” is a cover of the Toots and the Maytals, also ska legends, therefore appropriate.

“Talk Dirty To Me” refreshingly opens with an acoustic guitar playing the main riff rather than the horns. Tatiana DeMaria of British punk rock band TAT shares the lead vocals with Aaron Barrett. This is the best song on the record but still a minor league inclusion.

The song selection for this album is really awful. If you want to hear most of these tracks done in this style simply hit up your local mainstream bar that has a cover band. The Dekker and Maytals covers are the only tracks that seem appropriate for this record because they stay in tune with their genre. I actually feel bad for Reel Big Fish because I have always considered Turn The Radio Off to be a somewhat important Ska record, Fame certainly is not. D+

Reel Big Fish are Aaron Barrett [Vocals/Guitar], John Christianson [Trumpet], Derek Gibbs [Bass], Scott Klopfenstein [Trumpet/Vocals], Dan Regan [Trombone], and Ryland Steen [Drums].


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