The amount of polish that is on the average track on “Not Happy” is absurd. This is Josie and the Pussycats-level manipulation, and you know what? It sounds damn fine, probably because the sextet that is known as Reel Big Fish have been around for almost 15 years and have been privy to a myriad of different influences. “Drinkin’” looks back to the earliest days of the Barenaked Ladies and re-constructs “Enid” into a poppy, ska-influenced track. “Don’t Start A Band” has a fire behind it during the lead-up to the chorus that takes “At The Library” (early Green Day) and puts a snarky social commentary to another strong track. Reel Big Fish biffs up with their “A-W-E-S-O-M-E”, trying to incorporate metal and a “Pretty Fly”-type of sampling to the track. Still though, Aaron’s Darkness-looking vocals towards the end of the track, coupled with strong instrumental arrangements really set the track away from mediocrity. The sheer disdain that Aaron has for the tenets of typical vocal accompaniment during “We Hate It…” really increases the importance of the CD in rock history (in what is the most inspired Morrissey cover) – the laughing ey does on the track is a big fuck-you to the radio stations that have been RBF’s lifeline for years.
The first half of the disc comes to the end with the very Toots & The Maytals/Specials-sounding “Talkin’ Bout A Revolution”. Besides the aforementioned mastering of this disc, it would be hard to decipher the fact that this track is only a few months old. However, it is during their Social Distortion cover that Reel Big Fish really falls into a crevasse which they may never surpass; mixing the original (a classic) with what only sounds like Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker”, the resulting track is one of the most irritating covers this edge of Steve and Edie’s “Black Hole Sun”.
“The Joke’s On Me” is another track that really does not achieve the high quality that the first half of “You’re Not Happy”, falling flat due to a fairly bland arrangement. Reel Big Fish go into the Flogging Molly-style of vaguely-Irish rock for “One Hit Wonderful”, a track that really is fueled more by the early-nineties influence than by any Flogging Molly-esque sound. Reel Big Fish have made a largely solid album that while having some rough spots, really can wow any listener with the sincerity and spontaneity of the band. Just avoid the Social Distortion cover, guys.
Top Tracks: One Hit Wonderful, Don’t Start A Band
Reel Big Fish – We’re Not Happy ‘Til You’re Not Happy / 2005 Jive / http://www.reel-big-fish.com / http://www.zomba.de / Reviewed 04 April 2005