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Music Review: Reel Big Fish – Fame, Fortune, and Fornification

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Reel Big Fish has made a career of cover music. With their album Fame, Fortune and Fornification they continue their history by releasing an album of covers. The band continues to inject their humor into their music, but something about a full cover album comes off as lazy. To make it worse, there are only ten tracks on the album.

I understand that one of Reel Big Fish’s biggest hits was a cover of A-ha’s “Take on Me,” but it feels like the band is hoping that they can strike gold again with another cover. The album feels lazy, like no one had the ability to write a song, but they wanted to keep their names out in the public. The songs are well arranged and upbeat, but I can’t help but discredit most of the work because most of the songs don’t deviate from the original except that it now has a ska edge.

Even if all the songs aren’t original, there are several songs that stand out in the album. All of the songs are catchy and easy to listen to because they are covers, but the song “Brown Eyed Girl” is one of those songs where you can just join in on the chorus and have a fun time and Reel Big Fish’s version doesn’t disappoint. I understand that the song has been covered millions of times, but it doesn’t get annoying. Also notable is “Authority Song” which is a fun take on the John Mellencamp song.It was an easy transition to ska, so it doesn’t feel out of place.

To compare song arrangements and style, the song “Monkey Man” was placed on the deluxe edition of Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black and her version is both raw and better in arrangement; the jazzy quality in her voice fits better than the almost clean-cut sound that Aaron Barrett provides. The song “Veronica Sawyer” is almost a direct cover of Edna’s Goldfish version and it doesn’t deviate at all.

I interpret ska to be upbeat, funny, and driving. There were two songs that didn’t fit my definition: “Won’t Back Down” and “Talk Dirty to Me.” Both songs are a little too slow and the arrangements didn’t feel ska enough. The arrangements didn’t have a strong horn section and both felt like an extra hour in the studio could have cleaned up the odd nuances that don’t fit.

On a whole this is a great summer album and sounds like classic Reel Big Fish. The album isn’t going to be the next big thing, but it is something that the fans would appreciate. I just hope that Reel Big Fish could sit down and write a few ska-style songs, because they are infectious to listen to and they leave me with a smile on my face. If you can get past the fact that the album isn’t original, Fame, Fortune, and Fornification is a good listen.

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About Michael Pascua