Your average ordinary SUPERHUMAN punishers-of-evil rock-and-roll band!!!
December 12, 2013 8:19 AM   Subscribe

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, ska, B-movies, nostalgia, romance, 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 and Playdough resulted in an unusually solid album. (Also worth mentioning: Red Sweater and My Skateboard, goofy-but-tender songs about love and heartbreak respectively.)

If Fury 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

With Charge!!, 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.

Hi-Five Soup! 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.
posted by Rory Marinich (23 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Nicely done, but you skipped over the rockingest song they ever wrote: Danger Woman!
posted by cog_nate at 8:25 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tragically, no longer on NetFlix.
posted by Peccable at 8:26 AM on December 12, 2013

My favorite, Burger Rain.
posted by popaopee at 8:34 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've always had a soft spot for Captain Hampton and the Midget Pirates.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:38 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Why Rock (a fake cover - e.g., an original - for a punk Goes Metal compilation)
posted by stevil at 8:39 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Aquabats are truly Humanity's Greatest Gift to Humanity. Bad people hate them. All facts.
posted by Zack_Replica at 8:45 AM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Why Rock? (a fake cover - e.g., an original - for a punk Goes Metal compilation)

I can't believe someone beat me to this link already. Damn you stevil. It was going to be my excuse to link to Bigwig's cover of War Ensemble from that same comp.
posted by gwint at 8:50 AM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

They are the ones that myths and legends talk about!
posted by ChuraChura at 8:52 AM on December 12, 2013

Exclamation point!
posted by ardgedee at 9:00 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

The cat with two heads, ooooh, THE CAT WITH TWO HEADS!

Confessions Of A High School Wallflower: ska was my gateway to dancing in public, thanks to the silly fun of 3rd wave ska bands like the Aquabats. Nothing is really serious when you're in an auditorium, surrounded by upbeat youth who are skanking to guys dressed up in crime-fighter costumes, who are singing about science experiments gone wrong. And they fought giant monsters on stage! How can you NOT dance? I LOVED 'em back in the day, and just reading the song titles from their first album starts those songs playing in my head, even though I haven't heard them in years.

Then I went to see the Aquabats, live! Again! when I was in college. The crowd was weird - folks in their mid-to-late 20s (or beyond), clearly fans of the 'Bats as they wore Aquabats masks, but also a LOT of kids in black. I was worried it would be a "standing around and bobbing your head" crowd, but there was a lot of dancing, but also some resting. See, the Aquabats themselves were also older, and their spandex suits accentuated some paunches obtained from periods of slack between fighting monsters. And there was an official "break" for a short film of some sort (if I recall correctly). Then more exciting music. Unfortunately, their age really showed in stark contrast to Valient Thorr, the band who opened for them. Still, lots of fun, and I have an original Bat Doodle and an Aquabats coloring book from that show.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:01 AM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Love it! I've seen the Aquabats live more times than any other band. Thanks for the post.
posted by Arbac at 9:04 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Good record, that Punk Goes Metal. New Found Glory's cover of Heaven is a surprising delight.

The last time I saw Less Than Jake, Roger made a statement to the effect that they're proud to have their horn section intact. It's a shame Aquabats or even acts like No Doubt couldn't find a way to keep them in their band without sounding dated.
posted by dr_dank at 9:09 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Aquabats are well-loved in my house. My one-year-old loves the Pool Party video from Yo Gabba Gabba, and my 8 year-old and I love the Supershow. Our favorite is the first episode with the Burger Rain song linked above.

(Maybe Manant's being saying it wrong).
posted by Otis at 9:11 AM on December 12, 2013

It was going to be my excuse to link to Bigwig's cover of War Ensemble from that same comp.

Wow, that's shockingly intact. I thought they'd just handle the whole thing like they did the Hanneman solo. Very neat to hear that the song actually can work without double bass.
posted by ignignokt at 9:14 AM on December 12, 2013

Still can't distinguish them from the Hippos.
posted by alex_skazat at 9:29 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

My favorite thing they've done recently is the Aquabats Super Show episode Cobraman! because it features Matt Chapman (the creator and voice of Strong Bad) playing a character named Carl who wears a very familiar wrestling mask. It's the closest the world will ever get to live-action Strong Bad.
posted by sleeping bear at 9:35 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Aquabats cover of Devo's "Love Without Anger", as appropriate/inappropriate background music to somebody's quinceanera.
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:53 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's great to see such weird people so very successful!
posted by zscore at 9:53 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've never really gotten into them (so many bands, so little time!), but God I love their cover of Love Without Anger.
posted by immlass at 10:39 AM on December 12, 2013

alex_skazat: Still can't distinguish them from the Hippos.

Hah! Well, The Hippos looked like your ordinary young folks playing music, sometimes wearing normal dress shirts and normal ties, and singing generally normal songs about love and loss and whatnot, while the Aquabats wear swimcap-type hats, little goggle-like masks around their eyes, and spandexy suits, while singing about pirates and monsters.

Now I want to go dig up my EP from The Jamons and sing about ska pirates. Hurrah for late 1990s 3rd wave ska!
posted by filthy light thief at 10:50 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Cool Fact: Travis Barker (of Blink-182 fame) got his start playing drums for the Aquabats as "The Baron von Tito". He played on the Fury! album and he'll play with them every once in a while for fun.
posted by sideshow at 12:04 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Aquabats Supershow is a glorious break from other kids' videos. Soo good. I met some of the Imagination Movers once. Now when I watch the Aquabats Supershow, I picture the guys from Imagination Movers watching it and punching the wall, pissed that the Aquabats pulled it off with their dignity intact and undisneyfied.
posted by umbú at 12:09 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hey Homies!
posted by tommasz at 1:42 PM on December 12, 2013

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