Album Review: Reel Big Fish – Fame, Fortune, and Fornication

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When I was asked to review Reel Big Fish‘s new album, Fame, Fortune, and Fornication, I was excited. After all, the bands 2007 release Monkeys for Nothin’ and the Chimps for Free was a great return for a band that has been label-free since 2006, and a catchy listen, even for the most casual of fans.

Then I found out the new disc was a covers album. The ska act would be covering the likes of Poison, Tom Petty, the Eagles, and Van Morrison. So the question arose, do I review the album keeping the original versions of the song in mind, or treat it like a Reel Big Fish album? Going with the latter, I came to the conclusion that the album is mediocre Reel Big Fish at best.

The songs that do stand out feature lead singer Aaron Barrett at the forefront of the band’s usually overpowering horn section. The first song that’s more than an above average Reel Big Fish song comes at track four with John Cougar Mellencamp’s  “Authority Song”. The band’s good ole’ ska flavoring also adds a more rebellious tone, though that could just be because it’s moving at such a feverish pace.

“Brown Eyed Girl” comes next and is probably the best song to skank with your girl to. The Van Morrison cover stretches farthest away from the original. And while “The Long Run” by the Eagles is a decent enough cover song–trumpet and back up vocalist Scott Klopfenstein’s back up vocals add a great contradiction to Barrett’s low and slow approach– in the long run, the song  just comes off as repetitive.

The Tom Petty cover “Won’t Back Down” maintains a certain groove to it that makes the song extremely appealing and mostly features Barrett over a simple drum beat, guitar, and light horn parts. The song stays true to its original for the most part, and the group vocals work well during the chorus.
For obvious reasons, Desmond Dekker’s “Keep a Cool Head” comes off as the most fitting of the RBF treatment, but in the end that doesn’t really seem to add up to all that much if you’re not a big fan of Dekker. “Monkey Man” comes off very similarly,  and in fact, the track was released by the band in 2002, Nickelodeon’s The Wild Thornberrys movie soundtrack. Here, it doesn’t add anything new, but again, not a bad song, just mediocre.

My favorite take on the album comes last. The band’s almost completely original take on Poison’s “Talk Dirty To Me”  comes off as a sweet duet between Barrett and Tatiana DeMaria, of British band TAT. Outside of the guitar part, the song sounds entirely different, original, and fresher than ever.

My recommendation to the casual Reel Big Fish fan would be to pick through and buy the songs you like, catch the guys at Warped Tour this summer and hold out for the new full length supposedly coming at the end of the year.

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