Album Review: The Aquabats – “Hi-Five Soup”

Once upon a time (in high school), I went to a cafe where a local alternative radio station was doing some sort of promo event. The DJ had a stack of CD singles on a table and we could take whatever we wanted. So I grabbed The Aquabats “Super Rad!” and something else. I played that single nonstop. The track is just straight-up goofy, bouncy ska.

In the 14 years since “Super Rad!” (along with the rest of The Fury of The Aquabats!) came out, the band has evolved, grown, changed and – dare I say it? – matured, but hasn’t lost its fun-loving, goofy edge.

They aren’t afraid to play around with different musical styles, to experiment and manipulate their sound. There is no better example of this than the second track on the album, “B.F.F.” (for the sake of not sounding like I’m excessively emotional about this record, I’m going to leave the exclamation points off from here on out). It opens with some synth notes, and some extremely poppy-sounding vocals. And some “woo hoo” in the background. The lyrics are the same old wacky Aquabats, but the sound is very un-ska-like. They even throw in some deliberate auto-tune, Kanye-style, toward the end. And it works. The group is clearly unafraid to experiment and push themselves outside of the boundaries of what a ska band “should” sound like.

“Radio Down” is another example of their departure from straight-up ska. The song does have a ska beat to it, but also offers up a hip-hop verse from Biz Markie and some sampled Billy Idol lyrics (“with the record selection and the mirror’s reflection I’m dancing with myself”).

Fret not, Aquabat purists. Songs like “Poppin a Wheelie,” “The Shark Fighter” and “Food Fight on the Moon” definitely hold up to the sound of their past albums, and “Pink Pants” features some vocals from none other than Strong Bad (yes, that Strong Bad). The band hasn’t lost their sound, but they’ve taken it to another level, played with it, and used it to mess with everyone’s heads. Which, if you ask me, fits perfectly with what The Aquabats have always done.

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