Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Aquabats The Return of The Aquabats (1996) Review

The Return of The Aquabats (1996) LP Cover
Taking a break from Deftones records that I started reviewing on this blog, I wanted to switch gears a bit. Going back to 1996, when I fell in love with punk and ska music. I would go through my years of buying records asking shops about ska, and leaving bad reviews for record stores that didn’t have a ska section. In fact, I even had a Seattle record store owner call me once to apologize that their staff didn’t know anything about ska or punk music. Well, times have changed, and here I am in my 30s, and still listening to more punk, hardcore, and ska than ever before. Today, we are going to review a record that came out on Horchata Records, and it started a ska movement that was like a firework, fading out right before Nu Metal took over rock radio. The album in question is none other than, “The Return of The Aquabats” from 1996.

Comedy Ska Music


If you were lucky to get the original release it came out on Horchata Records, good for you, but you’ll find that the re-issue from Fearless Records is just as good. Bad sentence structure, huh? I know. I’m not always great at writing. Anyways, in July 1996, the band was able to release this record and produce the record by themselves, and sell it at shows and through local independent record shops near the band. The Aquabats were able to push through 24,000 copies of this record without any major distribution! That’s right, this was the era before the internet, and if you were putting out records, you would have to really be good to sell through options.

The record is a comedy ska music record. It is only about 36 minutes long, and it starts with “Playdough” and continues to make fun of different things, and talks as though The Aquabats are super heroes in a comic book shop. It’s funny to hear, and definitely great overall. Songs like “Martian Girl”, “Tarantula”, “CD Repo Man”, and “Idiot Box” are great to listen to, and dare I say, dance to! This is nothing short of comedy and ska infused with punk rock.

Horn Sections Throughout


When you listen to ska music, you usually get bands that play with a lot of horns, and some that only have a couple of horns. With the release of “The Return of The Aquabats”, the band was able to work through a lot of horns. You will hear trumpets, alto sax, trombone, and even a trumpet solo here and there. There’s a lot of focus on the horns here, and it’s really fun to listen to. There are two guitar players, keyboards, and of course the vocals from The Caped Commander. The vocal range and the band’s overall work is great on this record, which is fun to listen to overall. The next year, a few of the songs were re-recorded, but here you get that raw, independent ska sound that you would expect from the late 1990s.

Forget The Distortion, This Is Jamaican


If you are a fan of ska music, then you know that the form originated in Jamaica. There’s an uptick on the guitar work, and in this record there’s a tribute to that original sound. There’s a lot less focus on distorted guitars and heavy bass lines that you would find with other bands like Less Than Jake, or MU330, or even The Slackers. Instead, you get a traditional sound, but with comedic lyrics, and more entertainment than you would expect from bands in the same few years. It’s a solid distinction that hardcore fans of Jamaican music will no doubt be worth exploring.

Laugh, Dance, and Show This To Your Mom


If your mom hates your music, or you have a family member that isn’t big on heavy metal, then why not play this record? “The Return of The Aquabats” is a fun throwback to how the 1990s had such an eclectic musical sampling. This is an alternative record that is fun to listen to, and will have you dancing and your family at least interested in listening to the fun and comedy that comes from this record. This is a great, fun debut from the band that keeps on reinventing themselves as superheroes. I love it, you’ll love it and it’s such a good debut for an independent ska band. The Aquabats are still going strong, but this is a great starting line if you’ve never heard them.

I give The Aquabats “The Return of The Aquabats” a 4 out of 5.


This has so much to offer ska fans, and punk fans alike. It’s non-threatening, and fun to dance to, even if you’re alone.

You can buy The Aquabats “The Return of The Aquabats” LP on vinyl, stream it online, or find it around the internet for lower than a cup of coffee at times by clicking here.

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