Reel Big Fish – Life Sucks… Let’s Dance! (Album Review)

In 1996, Ska-Punk broke into the mainstream thanks to a couple of game-changing bands named No Doubt and Sublime. Within a year, a slew of underground Ska-Punk bands would follow suit such as The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Less Than Jake, and the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. While all three acts made an unmistakable mark on the genre, by the fall of 1996, another small time band named Reel Big Fish were quietly skanking their way into the limelight.

Out of Orange County, California, Reel Big Fish – Aaron Barrett (vocals/guitar), Grant Barry (trombone), Andrew Gonzales (drums), Scott Klopfenstein (trumpet), Dan Regan (trombone), Tavis Werts (trumpet), and Matt Wong (bass) – released their breakthrough album, Turn the Radio Off,  in August of 1996 on Mojo Records. In short, Turn the Radio Off immediately became a quintessential Ska-Punk album, full of thrilling horn sequences alongside funny and clever lyrics. Teenagers everywhere soon became entranced with the band’s electricity and their joyful way of saying “Everything Sucks.” It wasn’t long before Reel Big Fish’s single “Sell Out” was being played on Rock radio and MTV. Soon, Reel Big Fish became a huge attraction on the Vans Warped Tour and began headlining sold out shows at major clubs all over the world.

In the years since, Reel Big Fish continues to pack venues and pump out music that still makes the kid inside us all wanna skank the night away. Fast forward 22 years after their breakout, Reel Big Fish are one step beyond ecstatic to announce the release of their ninth studio album, Life Sucks… Let’s Dance!, out Friday, December 21, 2018 via Rock Ridge Music. Over the years, Reel Big Fish have gone through a few line-up changes leaving Barrett as the one original member. Today, Barrett is joined by five stellar musicians – John Christianson (trumpet), Derek Gibbs (bass), Matt Appleton (saxophone), Lucky LaPenta (trombone), and Edward Larsen (drums) – rounding out the band.

A title all Reel Big Fish fans will adore, Life Sucks… Let’s Dance! arrives as the band’s first album since 2012’s Candy Coated Fury. A fresh catch, Life Sucks… Let’s Dance! delivers fourteen new tracks alongside an eye-popping album cover. That said, who wants to break out their checkered pants and suspenders and turn up Reel Big Fish’s Life Sucks… Let’s Dance!? Opening via the title track, “Life Sucks;Let’s Dance” shows off Reel Big Fish’s amusing knack for singing about the negative while executing irresistibly positive music (“We’re all different notes, but we’re in the same song”).

Track two, Reel Big Fish get “Pissed Off” and someone’s gonna be sorry as “You Can’t Have All of Me” speaks to not letting the man steal your life away. Maybe you’ll regret it, maybe you won’t, “In Love Again” conjures up the butterflies of falling in love. Keeping the theme, “Tongue Tied and Tipsy Too” is a punked out tune to help you feel like a teenager at a make-out party. Next, a sequel to a Reel Big Fish classic, “Another Beer Song” is a happy toast to feeling good.

The best moments on Life Sucks… Let’s Dance!, “Ska Show” and “The Good Old Days” are for anyone who is old enough to remember going to Ska shows in their late teens at a catering hall or a church – if we could only go back in time. Not to be forgotten, Life Sucks… Let’s Dance! features even more lovable moments from Reel Big Fish on tracks like “Bob Marley’s Toe,” “I Should Know By Now,” and “I’d Rather Get It Wrong.”

In the end, Fans won’t be able to stop bopping all the way through Life Sucks… Let’s Dance!, as Reel Big Fish party in the face of uncertainty. Sure it has been six years since the band’s last album, but Reel Big Fish made it worth the wait as Life Sucks… Let’s Dance! happily says: “Sure the world is against us, but who the hell cares!” Bringing back fond memories, Cryptic Rock gives Life Sucks… Let’s Dance! 4 out of 5 stars.

Purchase Life Sucks… Let’s Dance!:

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  • Doesn’t bode well that the two songs you’ve picked out as the best are covers of old Forces of Evil songs.

    Forces of Evil being Aaron Barrett’s previous side-project that sounded exactly like RBF at the time….It’s as close to a band covering themselves as possible.

  • “The best moments on Life Sucks… Let’s Dance!, “Ska Show” and “The Good Old Days” are for anyone who is old enough to remember…”

    …when they were first released 13 years ago.

  • Thanks so much for reading. To me, the point is not so much to get caught up in who originally did the songs or how long ago they came out. It’s about how the song makes you feel. To be honest, even though I have been a fan of RBF since 1996, I had no idea about Barrett’s side project until I happened to read about it following the article. That is mostly because I lost track of the band after a few albums and wasn’t closely following them. .

    For me personally, those two songs meant the most because where I am from, 20 plus years ago I went to a lot of Ska shows in my hometown and I know many people who would appreciate that homage. Not every song will ring the same way with all of us, but we should all keep an open mind,

  • […] Reel Big Fish – Life Sucks… Let’s Dance! (Album Review) […]

  • This is hilarious to me. I was just Googling my name and found this. While I am a huge fan of the band, I have not now nor have I ever been in the band.

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