Why do Reel Big Fish rock so hard? Because they can, of course. Back when these fish were mere smelts, they had swum along a very different circuit than that of the ska scene, paying the bills with their cover band, professionally and proficiently reeling out sets of hard rock and glam faves. Until, that is, original RBF Ben Guzman turned them on to ska. The rest is history. But now with Why Do They Rock So Hard?, RBF swim up their old stream to spawn a new set of kick-ass rock, fueled by kicking syncopated beats. Few reggae fans have bothered to wonder just why it was rock made such a small impression on Jamaica. Every producer on the island deluged the market with floods of pop covers, but rock numbers were universally ignored. What would have happened if, say, the Supersonics were unleashed on classic rock? And what if the Two Tone bands had turned not to punk for inspiration but to the rock and glam of their youth, as well as the reggae bands that so electrified their school years? Combine these two musing thoughts and you're left with rock, a tribute to a cross-hybridization that never happened.
Of course, even when RBF had fully formed under the ska banner, they incorporated rock into their sound, and to prove that point, the set includes several numbers recut from their debut album Everything Sucks. Now, however that rock styling is allowed full rein, bringing the band an even bigger sound than before. Hey, they even include a power ballad, "Big Star" to really give those rock fans an added thrill. RBF have always had a wry sense of humor, viewing their success sardonically, and as slick as they've always sounded, they've never really cared if their roller coaster ride comes to an stop. Because in the end, they're having a grand time, playing what they like, mixing it up how they see fit, and "if you don't get it, why don't you go shove your head back up your ass." Obviously the band are still not pulling any punches. But "Everything Is Cool" and really the band do love you, as they assure us on "We Care," a big rock showstopper, fizzing with searing guitar solos and blasts of brass. And that's the beauty of this set, with tongue still firmly in cheek, RBF swim into exciting new waters, bringing ska to the rock masses, and rock to the skankers. Purists on either side of the divide will be singularly unimpressed, but the rest of the world can only revel in this phenomenal blending of opposing styles.