CDs Revisited: Reel Big Fish - 'Why Do They Rock So Hard?'

via Amazon
I've mentioned already that my first Reel Big Fish album was Cheer Up, and I feel like that opened my mind up to the idea that their later albums were listenable (or at least through We're Not Happy 'Til You're Not Happy). However, and I think this has happened to almost everyone who has gotten really into Reel Big Fish, I went through a period when I thought that this album, Why Do They Rock So Hard? was my all-time favorite album by them. Everything Sucks was championed by the underground scene, Turn the Radio Off was the well-known one with the big singles, so obviously Why Do They Rock So Hard was the underdog that was secretly their best. At least that's how I thought of it.

I got this album in the summer of 2004. I ordered it through some kind of mail-order club. I don't remember if it was Columbia House or some equivalent service, but I do remember that I got it alongside Sublime's self-titled, the Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill and Fungus Amongus by Incubus (and maybe the Enjoy Incubus EP too...). I went to visit my uncle and cousins in Olympia and carried around the package that the CDs arrived in because I didn't have enough time to sort them into my CD book properly. (Here's some background info on me: I was very, very, very into making sure that all of my CDs were organized alphabetically by artist, and then chronologically by album and when my package arrived right before I'd left for the west coast, I brought the whole thing with me to sort later on my trip.) At this point, my Reel Big Fish collection consisted of Cheer Up and Turn the Radio Off, so I was ready for something new and the album that bridged the two I was already familiar with was the best option.

This album is essentially the epitome of Reel Big Fish's schtick: miserable, angry lyrics backed with happy, upbeat music and presented as a joke. One could also say the same about nearly every single release in their discography, but there's something about this album that makes it stick out. Maybe it's because people often discover it before the joke gets old, or maybe it's because, in spite of the entirety of the band being rather one note, there are some legitimately good songs here (Listening to it now, I'm still surprised at how good "The Set Up (You Need This)" and "The Kids Don't Like It" sound).

But, and this is kind of similar to Cheer Up, I think there are too many songs on the album [Interestingly enough, I *don't* think that Turn the Radio Off runs for too long but I'll save that for once I get to that album]. 17 tracks is a lot to begin with, but 17 songs of the same sarcastic bitterness is a lot to take in at once. Or at least it feels like a lot to go through now- when I was 16 it didn't bother me much. I get how putting an instrumental at the end of the album could make sense, but I don't think it really adds much. And the hidden track full of studio banter is... well, it doesn't have much replay value. Nor is it entirely fun to listen to in the first place. Then there are select lyrics spread throughout the album... I've been discovering this a lot lately, but not all of the humor has aged well and that drags out the playtime for me. Cheer Up's "Ban the Tube Top" felt really creepy to listen to now that I'm older, and listening to lyrics like "You say we'll be friends, that just means no sex / I don't care what you say / I'm tired of fucking you anyway" from "Everything Is Cool" just don't really sit right in a similar way. I get that the song is a parody of nu metal from the late 90's, but context is everything and listening to this album in 2018 where nu metal isn't really a thing anymore means people listening to this album for the first time aren't going to have that same understanding. Hindsight really is 20/20.

I take back what I implied in my intro. Yeah, when I first got this album I thought of it as my favorite Reel Big Fish album because of the perceived underdog qualities, but now that I've listened to it again I'm pretty sure that once I remove the filler songs, it actually is my favorite RBF album.

You can listen to it below.


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