Sound — 10
Reel Big Fish is the only ska band I listen to, this being my favorite album of theirs. Aaron Barrett is an amazing guitar player, able to hop from traditional up-stroking to melodic riff-driven rock in seconds. Put a talented horn line behind him and an excellent rhythm section and you have a formidable force. I like to examine ska from a jazz perspective. Although third wave ska may not have very noticeable jazz influences, early ska sounds can be traced to traditional latin jazz. Fast syncopated rhythms and blaring horns have slowly transformed through the decades into the ska upstroking and horn riffs of what we hear in certain strains of this genre. From this angle, Why Do They Rock So Hard? Is full of all sorts of jazzy treats. The tight horn harmonies and rhythms never cease to keep me wanting more, and the trombone and trumpet solos throw me right back into a smoky club in Cuba. The real treat on this album is the song "Victory Over Peter Bones," a beautiful jazz ballad lingering on the last track of the album. The chord changes and solos make this song a Real Book candidate while the injections of explosive rock keep it within it's bounds. It is a treat to close the album with. The rest of the album is upbeat and driving. The use of the horn line as a counter-melody is a delightful treat and adds that much more musicality to the melody driven music. The guitar and horns are equally impressive and perfectly complimentary.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics of this album are fun and catchy, and it won't take long for you to find yourself singing along to this entire album. The songs have punchlines written into them both lyrically and musically, making for a very harmonious lyrical experience. Personally I am not a huge ska fan and am pleased to find an absense of weed references, although for a little Jamaica throwback (ja mon!) Coolie Ranx makes an appearance on "Song #3." The depiction of your average mosher in "Thank You For Not Moshing" is also hilarious in its honesty ("Got my wife beater on, steel toe Doc Martins on my feet, I run around in a little circle, I'm wonderin' who to beat").
Overall Impression — 10
Beyond the jazzy Easter Eggs, the album is upbeat, fun, and the perfect remedy to any case of boredom. The melodies are rediculously catchy, the words light and funny, and the whole thing is simply a joy. This album is insatiably fun and completely dance-friendly, even if you have no dancing skills whatsoever. And behind its fun and happy exterior lies a group of extremely talented jazz musicians exploring the boundaries of their genre. I would not call this a ska album as much as I would call it an exploration into powerpop/jazz fusion. If there's a ska album you need in your collection, this is it.