Sound — 8
"Why Do They Rock So Hard?" was RBF's third full length album and had the enormous task of following up the highly rated Turn The Radio Off. This album demonstrates the band dabbling with different genres, as well as playing the hooky ska-punk that made them famous. The horns sound bright and raspy and the unique vocal harmonies(listen to the band to see what I mean) of Aaron and Scott sound pleasant as always. The guitar sounds well mixed and really shines when played with distortion, giving it a full, punchy sound.
Lyrics — 8
01. Somebody Hates Me - punchy guitar opens the album well, but inevtiably RBF soon turn on the ska sound to good effect. Good start. 02. Brand New Song - RBF hint at a darker, heavier song with a mock-rock, slightly metallic style. 30 seconds in, however, they reveal their comic side by somehow twisting the song into major key, amazingly catchy ska. Great horn work and irresistable melodies make this song an album highlight. 03. She's Famous Now - a more rock oritentated song. Blasts of horn work are more infrequent but used well to add some punch to the song. Good all-rounder, although I've listened to it too many times to appreciate it fully. 04. You Don't Know - unusually for RBF, their attempt to make me laugh failed miserably. Musically the song is fine, but the lyrics do nothing for me and this sounds like a filler song. 05. The Set Up (You Need This) - the album's single. Features great guitar work from Aaron and bright horn melodies. The song is unashamedly poppy, with plenty of keyboards, oo-ahhs and less horns than perhaps fans would have liked. A decent song, although this too has suffered from being overplayed for me personally. 06. Thank You For Not Moshing - brilliant song with reggae verses, ska choruses and a great trumpet solo. Extremely sarcastic, lyrically and musically this is RBF on top form. An album highlight. 07. I'm Cool - an old RBF song re-worked. Previously it was a loud, incoherent mess. Now they've slowed it down and given it a chilled out, reggae feel to it the song works well. Not one to listen to if you want to skank, but an underrated song with one of the album's best lines: "'Cause there's so many fish in the sea, and they all look like me. I'm just a little tiny fish, that's all I'll ever be." 08. I Want Your Girlfriend To Be My Girlfriend Too - RBF by numbers here folks. A very catchy melody, a bouncy chorus, memorable horn lines and simple lyrics that many people can relate to. Look out for a tasty guitar solo at the end. Another album highlight. 09. Everything Is Cool - sounds like filler to me I'm afraid. The cool bridge saves this song from being a skippable song, but this is a poor song, despite a bouncy ska chorus. 10. Song #3 - RBF parody the reggae and dub genres with surprisingly good results. A very relaxed song with meandering bass lines provided by Matt Wong and a steady drum beat. Well mixed. 11. Scott's A Dork - upon my first few listens of this album, I unbelievably neglected this song. Very catchy chorus with great horn work throughout. Look out for the key change near the end. Yet another album highlight. 12. Big Star - disappointing. I still feel that RBF could have done much more with this song. Most of this is acoustic guitar and xylophone, which is perfectly fine. When the band wakes up and kicks the song into fifth gear, I really thought this song would blow me away. The horns, however, are sorely underused and there's a lack of lead guitar. Shame. Still a good listen but this could have been so much more. 13. The Kids Don't Like It - kicks off with a cool drum roll and bright horn work, but other than that the song doesn't stand out much. A good song which provides more oppertunities for people to skank and lyrically the song has a good message, but this song falls into the RBF by numbers trap. 14. Down In Flames - in my opinion, this is the RBF equivalent of Master Of Puppets or Stairway To Heaven. Down In Flames shows Reel Big Fish experimenting with arrangement and style(the bridge and the song's conclusion demonstrate this), which is refreshing to hear. The complicated horn lines, the smooth lead guitar lick and the wandering bass guitar all come together to make a superb song. The lyrics are the highlight of this song: "When this blows over and the mainstream coughs up another show will you let us back in your underground. Well I guess that's a no and that's just as well because you never supported us; all you wanted was to see us fail." RBF at their scathing best, taking shots at the critics who have shunned them for "selling out". 15. We Care - after the sentiment of the previous song, We Care puts the album in danger of having an overly emotional end to the album. The song is bitter as you would expect from RBF, but they also thank their fans through this song which means that this song automatically gets an 8/10. Musically, the song is alright but nothing special. 16. Victory Over Peter Bones - not their best instrumental but still worth listening to. Poor choice of song to end the album with.
Overall Impression — 8
While it didn't quite escape the shadow of its predecessor, Why Do They Rock So Hard is a fantastic album which shows RBF diversifying their sound and solidifying their reputation as one of the greatest ska bands of all three waves (Yeah, I said it). The best songs on this album(I'm aware that I already told you) are: Brand New Song, Thank You For Not Moshing, I Want Your GF To Be My GF Too, Scott's A Dork and Down In Flames. Why do Reel Big Fish rock so hard? They just do. If you don't believe me, buy this album as well as Turn The Radio Off.