Beat Blvd. is Heard Mentality's weekly review of local releases. If you're an OC musician or band with something new to offer--vinyl single, full-length album, CD, cassette--we want to hear from you! Send copies, along with any photos and PR material, to Beat Blvd., c/o OC Weekly, 2975 Red Hill Ave., Ste. 150, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. You can also e-mail us digital downloads at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I'm a shark fighter/I fight sharks/I fight 'em in the water/'Cause that's where they are!" And with those words, giddily sung over a fast clip of an arrangement introduced by rolling drums, TheAquabats are once again at it after a five-year studio break.
Full credit has to go to a band that seemed on first blush to be a jokey afterthought of the mid-'90s OC ska/punk explosion, complete with matching costumes and increasingly involved superhero storyline. But in the same way that a band such as the Charlatans outlasted the Madchester hype of 20 years ago to find their own path, the Aquabats ended up becoming a veritable institution, a GWAR for the goofily innocent. The kicker was lead singer Christian Jacobs'creation of the Yo Gabba Gabba! show on Nick Jr., where ridiculousness and dressing up is the whole point. Little surprise therefore that Hi-Five Soup! sounds like a soundtrack to the show in all but name.
The original musical impulses that sparked the band aren't gone, sometimes cropping up as quick breaks or lyrical references. In other cases, they're front and center, as on the easy lope of "Radio Down!"--featuring Yo Gabba Gabba! regular Biz Markie in a growly cameo. If there's a theme throughout the album, though, it's themes themselves, perfect for little kid sing- (or shout-) alongs.
Songs such as "The Legend Is True!" and "Poppin' a Wheelie!" and "Food Fight On the Moon!"--it wouldn't quite be an Aquabats album without the exclamation points--all speed along like they should be the opening credits for a crazed animated adventure. Other songs such as the Autotune-laden "BFF!" (short for "Big Friend Forever," it turns out) and the not-very-hardcore-rap-but-that's-the-point "Hey Homies!" ("Don't need no thugs unless those thugs was giving out hugs!") are perfect songs for current kids who grew up on those sounds, the sentiments of Mr. Rogers while getting down.
And besides, there's a song called "Pink Pants!" featuring none other than the grouchily voiced Strong Bad from Homestar Runner. Knock that, if you dare.