The Aquabats are a joke. A band of super-heroes who walk the earth and protect citizens from made up monsters like Powdered Milk Man. They’re a live action cartoon, a gimmick. When you realize that The Aquabats have been around for over fifteen years with continued support from a legion of die-hard fans, it seems even more absurd. Besides abandoning the ska horns that made them underground cult saviors, and surviving numerous line-up changes, The Aquabats, or more importantly, the idea and theme of The Aquabats has never changed. So why have they endured? Because despite the lame outfits, nerdy nicknames and ridiculous lyrics, the music has always been killer.
Going back to The Fury of The Aquabats (or more commonly know as the record that launched Travis Barker’s career), the band’s MO has been clear: write interesting, complex and fun songs, then sing weird, Saturday-morning sci-fi lyrics with a great melody and hope people just zone out and hum along. And that’s why I’ve stuck with the group. Their ska musicianship was unmatched by any group in the mid-t0-late nineties. When they ditched the horns on 2005’s Charge!, the new, new-wave vibe still rocked because the songs and melodies were solid. I really could care less about the fantasy world they existed in. Does it rock? If so, I’m all in. I can forgive and overlook a lot of things as long as I’m tapping my foot.
Now, after a six-year silence, the group is back with High-Five Soup! The record is more of the same, but not really. The sense of humor and painfully silly lyrics are still present, but the music has lost a step. Instead of improving on their successful new-wave/punk sound, they have regressed, relying heavily on synths, electronic beats and flashes of wannabe hip-hop. It’s always hard to tell with The Aquabats, but it feels like they have become the satire with the listener laughing more at them, than with them. Songs like “B.F.F.!”, “Hey Homies!”, and “Poppin’ a Wheelie!” just sound lazy and lack the creativity of previous efforts. The faux good times just don’t transfer.
There are a few listenable tracks like “The Shark Fighter” and “Radio Down” (featuring Biz Markie for some reason), but mostly this is just a disappointing, wasted record. The arrangements are sub-par to everything on Charge! and I get the feeling that the MC Bat Commander is spending a little too much time on the set of Yo Gabba Gabba. I’m sure the Cadets will eat the record up, but a six-year wait for “Food Fight on the Moon!”?
The Aquabats will always be one of those bands that I’ll support regardless of what they do, but High-Five Soup! is a major let down, especially when I know what they’re capable of.