They were a one-hit wonder in the 90s
. Then they got a hit show on Nick Jr. and introduced a generation of young children to Of Montreal
, Mos Def
, and MGMT
. They have another TV show where they fight evil monsters
, but first and foremost they're a kick-ass band that mixes new wave
, surf rock
, and general ecstatic feel-goodiness
into a tight, clever, and totally awesome package. WHO ARE THOSE MASKED MEN, YOU MAY ASK??!? THEY ARE... THE AQUABATS.
The Aquabats made their triumphant debut with The Return of the Aquabats!
in 1996. Songs about mundanely sinister villains
, alien babes
, and nostalgia about missing childhoods
pretty much set the course for their career. But it wasn't until The Fury of the Aquabats!
that things really kicked off. Super Rad!
became a 3rd-wave ska staple, mock-horror songs like The Cat With Two Heads
/Powered Milk Man
helped them develop a cult following, and revisions of songs like Idiot Box
and the aforementioned Martian Girl
resulted in an unusually solid album. (Also worth mentioning: Red Sweater
and My Skateboard
, goofy-but-tender songs about love and heartbreak respectively.)
was the high point of The Aquabats' career, they'd be just another fun-but-disposable ska outfit, memorable but nothing all that special. The Aquabats vs. the Floating Eye of Death!
was a significant push forward, both in terms of style and in terms of songwriting ambition. The light-hearted fun is still there (Anti-Matter!
), the mock-horror's still in full swing (Monsters Wedding!
), the silly-billy girl-craziness keeps on going (Lovers of Loving Love
if you're feeling silly and giddy, and The Man With Glooey Hands
if you're feeling silly, giddy, and a little bit creepy), but included in the mix were a few darker, more serious songs. Chemical Bomb
gave me nightmares as a kid; Hello Goodnight
, the album closer, is a song about death and mortality that leaves you feeling okay with it in the end. Best of all, though, were the album's more experimental songs, like The Thing on the Bass Amp
, which feels like a campy horror movie condensed into a 4-minute musical, and The Ballad of Mr. Bonkers
, which is split up into three very dissimilar musical sections that are nonetheless very, very, very fun.
Myths, Legends and Other Amazing Adventures, Vol. 2
is a collection of studio outtakes, b-sides, and miscellaneous tracks, but it contained two of the band's biggest singles, the synthtastic Pool Party
and the ska-rrific Pizza Day
. Also noteworthy:
— Hardcore parody I Fell Asleep On My Arm
— My personal favorite, Hey Luno!
(I don’t know why it is but it is)
— The Wild Sea
, which takes the melody of “Chemical Bomb” to much funner places
— Worms Make Dirt
and The Baker
, both highly educational
— Sandy Face
, another delightful slice of weird
, the Aquabats left their ska roots behind entirely, embracing synthpop and cartoonish Devo-esque overproduction — and the result was what might be their best album to date. It’s the same fare of movie melodramas (Stuck in a Movie!
, Mechanical Ape!
, and Tiger Rider Vs. The Time Sprinkler!
), love songs (Plastic Lips
and Hot Summer Nights
), and anthems (Look at Me (I’m a Winner), Nerd Alert
, and especially Awesome Forces
), but the lyrics are sharper, the songwriting is tighter, and the execution is so, so very good.
embraces the silliness and juvenilia of Yo Gabba Gabba, which is not exactly a bad thing when it means you get Homestar Runner’s Strong Bad on guest vocals
. Poppin’ a Wheelie!
, Food Fight on the Moon!
, and The Shark Fighter!
are all pretty excellent, but still… Strong Bad. You can’t beat Strong Bad.