Flying Ship of Fantasy is the debut LP from Long Beach Shortbus, a band whose roots go back to the Long Beach Dub Allstars. (Three members from that defunct unit founded the Shortbus.) More than that, bassist Eric Wilson was one-third of hallowed Long Beach reggae/ska punks Sublime. On this album Long Beach Shortbus stay true to their SoCal garage-ska heritage, but the group also infuses the music with a shot of driving psychedelia and some overtly lovey-dovey (sometimes toothless) hippie lyrical fare. All of this means that Long Beach Shortbus aren't as immediately catchy and engaging as the late, lamented groups that spawned them. When it works, as it does on "Everyone Is Beautiful" -- which nicely laces rock guitar licks into classic ska bounce -- the result is highly appealing. But the title track, which features such blissed-out lyrical strands as "Embrace in one another and love will lead the dance" (and a keening passage about dandelions), tips its hand heavily toward schmaltz. This tune, as well as a few others, seem aimed at becoming ambient background music on the latest hip, young TV series. (Long Beach Dub Allstars' "Sunny Hours," in a similar vein, became the theme song to NBC's Joey, and the Shortbus often seem like they're swinging for the fence for more of that TV gravy.) But it's on the upbeat, more driving tunes that this album succeeds. "Slim's Song (Lonely at the Top)" bangs along at a catchy ska romp worthy of Sublime, but the group's occasional forays into SoCal hardcore ("Slow Down" and "Odd Walking Man") seem gratingly out of place -- perhaps there to serve penance for (or to clear the palate from) the sappy ballads. This is an uneven effort: marvelous in places, saccharine in others, and misguided at points. It also feels like the 18 tracks could have been edited back to fewer songs that work together as a cohesive whole. Nevertheless, hats off to the group's interesting, eclectic, and fairly well-executed choice of covers: the Rolling Stones' reggae-dabbling "Luxury," Frank Zappa's "How Could I Be Such a Fool," and Ween's "Mutilated Lips."
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AllMusic Review by Erik Hage